Could Britain’s new love affair with lidos see a rebirth in West St Leonards?

‘If Hull can do it surely Hastings can too. We already have the perfect site – the Old Bathing Pool at West St Leonards.’

That was the Tweet that Anne Cooke posted on her Twitter account the other day that has attracted a huge response.

Anne was responding to the news that Britain is currently undergoing a ‘Lido revival’ as outdoor swimming booms in popularity and more specifically to the news that in Hull, where the old lido has been out of bounds for a quarter of a century the local council has just announced a £4.6m investment to reopen it.

How the new facility in Hull might look.

The plan is part of ‘build a better society’ post pandemic and Hull city council has decided to put £4.6m into reopening the outdoor pool and upgrading the complex. It is one of a string of new or refurbished lidos up and down the country, from Brighton to Salford, set to open in the coming years.

There was a time when most UK towns and cities had lidos. But by the 1990s, most had closed. Like the bathing pool in St Leonards they had fallen victim to the boom in cheap package holidays and ever tighter council budgets. Those that survived or reopened were often in wealthy or gentrifying areas, such as London Fields in Hackney, making outdoor swimming an increasingly middle-class pursuit.

Sea Lanes in Brighton could be open next year.

That’s what makes Hull’s lido so special, says Daren Hale, the deputy leader of Hull council. The fact it is in a: “…quite deprived terraced house community in west Hull makes it all the more admirable in my view,” he said, “because it means you don’t have to live in a swanky part of town” to enjoy it.

The lido will be heated so it will not just be the preserve of masochists in winter, and Hale is optimistic it will be popular with the local community when it opens in summer/autumn 2022.

For a council under extreme financial pressure following a £130m cut in central government funding over the past ten years, reopening a lido may seem a luxury to some. Not so, says Hale: “With the Covid-19 pandemic, people have started to take stock of what’s important,” he said. “As we come out of the pandemic we need to build a better society and I think the fear that we have is that unemployment will be higher, certainly for young people as the furlough scheme winds down, and people are going to need to have affordable, good leisure facilities on their doorstep.”

Other lidos expected to open in 2022 include Sea Lanes in Brighton just along the coast. There will be a brand new 50-metre outdoor pool on a privately run site billing itself as “the first national open water swimming centre of excellence”.

The community has come together to protest at council plans for housing on the old bathing pool site – is the idea of a new lido on the site a realistic one?

Across the country, dogged local campaigners continue pushing for their own outdoor pools to reopen nowhere more so than here in Hastings and St Leonards where campaigners point to the fact that a perfect site already exists in West St Leonards where the old bathing pool once stood. Hastings Borough Council want to turn the site over to housing but has faced a sustained campaign from local people opposing the plan and determined to ensure the site becomes a leisure destination once again.

They could turn to Phil Bradby, who runs Save Grange Lido in Cumbria, for inspiration, he takes heart from the developments in Hull and beyond: “When I started Save Grange Lido ten years ago people thought I was mad trying to save a long-forgotten, derelict lido from demolition but now there are campaigns and community groups all over the UK working to reopen old lidos and calling for new ones where they used to be – it really does look like a lido revolution,” he says.

We’ve asked Hastings Borough Council for their comments. Our council’s forward planning includes the construction of a new swimming pool and leisure centre after all.

13 thoughts on “Could Britain’s new love affair with lidos see a rebirth in West St Leonards?

  1. The Summerfields bathing pool site would be better suited for housing. It is a massive site will good access to the town centre, and all the services you could possibly need. It is not subject to flooding, is not obstructing anyone’s view and will cost considerably less to develop.

    Brighton’s Sea Lanes project is the way to go!

    1. Huge upsurge in open water swimming due to health benefits, both mental and physical, makes this a perfect use of this space!

  2. Yes Daren hale leader of hull council can see the way forward. I just wish hbc. Had the same sense. I agree with graham that summerfields is the best site for housing no flooding there. Let’s put the lido here where it should be. Say no to the ridiculous idea of housing on old bathing Pool site. If hill can do it why oh why can’t hastings.

  3. It would be brilliant for Hastings, both residents and visitors would benefit. And the location is perfect, retaining its leisure use, and not spoiling the coastal vista. It just takes a leap of faith and imagination, and goes some way to improving Hastings.

  4. Would love to see a lido on the old bathing pool site.the regenaration of the area would bring in more visitors to St Leonards

  5. Well Stuart, your photo if the Bathing pool is as it was before they turned it into an awful holiday camp. The flat surface above to seating was a roller skating rink!!! Why oh why can’t we have a lido on this site.

  6. The Old Bathing Pool site would make a wonderful place to have a modern lido, offering links to the sea and the coastal pathway. Thanks to modern technology the owners could create an energy-efficient, all-the-year-round attraction. A far, far better use of this last seafront open space than putting 5 high-rise, high density blocks on it! The Labour majority on HBC just does not get this – why when everyone else does?

  7. Whilst the design and adequacy of the proposed housing at the bathing pool site may be questionable. The logistics of ‘reopening’ the site seems simplistic. Given the last decade of austerity imposed by a Tory govt on Local Authorities, especially labour run, unfortunately i doubt there is adeqaute funding. HBC spends vast sums on homeless accommodation and the revenue from developing the site would be far more beneficial. Until the issue of housing is resolved, niceties like a new lido (which i would love to see, as i spent many a summer in the old bathing pool) shall have to be put on hold. This is a vanity project by Nimbys and DFLs

  8. Peter, I don’t think it’s fair to characterise those who want a new lido as Nimbys. It’s an imaginative project which will bring much longer term benefit to St Leonards than a sterile block of flats. I agree about the horrors of austerity, but people need bread AND roses – something to lift the spirit and feed the soul.

  9. I think rebuilding the Lido is an excellent idea. I used to go to the old bathing pool after school and it would be great to have something like this again. Focusing just on housing is not enough, this would be a great thing for the people that live in them 🙂

  10. Spent many holidays in Hastings as a kid & St Leonard’s lido was holds some really treasured memories for me from 1970 to 1980, fully deserves to be refurbished & definitely must be !

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The sad history of St Leonards Parish Church

Once again courtesy of Derelict In The UK we bring you photographs of iconic and deserted buildings, this time St Leonards Parish Church. Standing grand on the St Leonards seafront, this beautiful building was completed in 1961 to replace its predecessor destroyed by a direct hit from V-1 ‘doodlebug’. It originally had structural building problems […]