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Lido campaigners angry over lack of pool option

Sunday, February 5, 2017 at 10:26PM

Campaigners are stepping up their calls for the Lido in Grange to be "properly" funded and restored to its former glory as a swimming pool.

Earlier this month, a drop-in session was held in the town, where residents were invited to give their feedback on a number of options on how the former outdoor pool could be brought back in to use.

However, non of the options that have been presented include it being used for its original purpose, following a report into the site's future.

Last year, South Lakeland District Council commissioned studies to help come up a list of options for the site - which has been derelict for the last 25 years, along with business cases and funding arrangements.

Now, following findings in a report in 2015 that concluded that a new pool would not be possible, views are sought on what else the site could be used for.

But campaigners say they want to know more about what led the council to conclude that a pool would be out of the question, saying they haven't seen enough evidence to justify the idea being ruled out.

Commercial property experts Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH), supported by Amion Consulting and IBI Group, carried out the latest studies, with a brief from SLDC to investigate non-pool options.

The brief also said that the options must be "compatible with the Grade 2 listing of the site and that present a sustainable, long-term, proposition that will create a viable community asset".

Proposals include ideas that would necessitate filling in the pool area - which campaigners say could be in breach of the rules surrounding the preservation of Grade 2 listed structures.

The LSH studies have been funded by a £50,000 grant awarded by the Coastal Revival Fund which SLDC successfully applied for in order to investigate how a new future for the site could be taken forward.

LSH director Simon Turner said: “We have had a busy period engaging with stakeholders and local residents on the future use of the lido site.

“Having considered a long list of potential options for the lido site, we will be presenting the emerging options for restoration at the forthcoming public exhibition and look forward to hearing the local community’s views on these.”

SLDC’s portfolio holder for Finance, Councillor Peter Thornton, said: “We are working to restore this site in a way that is sympathetic to its listed status but also provides a sustainable community asset.

“We share the frustration of local residents that this has been a lengthy process, but we are determined that the work being done now will lead to a solution.

“Inevitably it will initially require the investment of quite a bit of money to carry out the work required to re-open this wonderful site to the public, but it is also important that what we do doesn’t become a financial drain on the taxpayers of the district into the future.

“We have worked with our steering group, including Grange Town Council and county council colleagues, and have agreed that the options that will be presented at the event on Thursday offer the most realistic prospect that this can be achieved.’’

Councillor Tricia Thomas, chair of Grange Town Council, added: “I think I can speak on behalf of the people of Grange when I say how pleased we are that after so much time, energy and so many ideas this consultation will culminate in a real future for the old bathing pool site."

A campaign group that was set up on Facebook has attracted nearly 2,000 "likes".

The group's Philip Bradby, said: "The Save Grange Lido Group think SLDC are going in totally the wrong direction and is strongly opposed to any option that involves infilling the pool.

"Personally I think I’d prefer they left it as it is than destroyed it by filling not in.

"If they fill in the pool it ceases to be a Lido and ceases to have any value or meaning at all.

He added: "I’m sure funding would be available to restore the lido but clearly it would be a struggle to get funding to destroy it."

The Lido was opened in 1932 and was used as a public swimming pool up until 1992. Before its closure, it was one of the very few remaining open air seawater pools in the country, attracting both local people and those from further afield.

However, while its popularity dropped in favour of other more modern facilities, its operating and maintenance costs rose.

A new pool - Berners Pool, opened in 2003 but shut down three years later after low-usage led to higher prices. An inadequate maintenance budget meant the Trust that was set up to run the pool had to shut the facility.

The Options Analysis document, put to SLDC by LSH, reads: "Despite best endeavours of the council, no other operator could be found for the pool.

"South Lakeland District Council was not persuaded that there was enough demand for a pool prior to the delivery of Berners Pool. This position appears to have been vindicated by the subsequent closure of Berners Pool and raises significant concerns about the viability of reusing the Lido as a pool, particular [sic] given the disadvantages of this site (i.e., open air and un-heated)."

The report added: There now appears to be wide acceptance of this, and little demand among local members and stakeholders for the Lido to re-open as a pool."

The current options appraisal is not the first study that has looked at options to bring the Lido site back into use.

In late 2013 a company called NeoNow undertook an options appraisal focusing on leisure uses, including the reintroduction of a functioning Lido. The capital cost of these various schemes ranged from £5m-£7m.

In 2014, SLDC commissioned a feasibility study to explore the preferred option outlined in the options appraisal - Lido with a gym facility. Commenting on that, an SLDC spokesperson said: "Even based on some fairly generous assumptions the scheme failed to demonstrate its viability, with only small revenue projected from year-three onwards.

"However looking at a more realistic set of assumptions about usage the scheme was projected to lose £80,000 in year one and up to £34,000 by year five."

We have approached both SLDC for comment.

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