Plans by the leaseholder of Saltdean Lido to develop flats on the site have been challenged by local residents’ groups who want to restore it.
Once hailed as the most innovative design of its type in Britain, the Saltdean Lido is now a mere shell of its former glory.
Property developer Dennis Audley took over the derelict lido’s lease from the council in 1997 but despite restoration efforts, a lack of funding saw the building fall back into disrepair in 2010.
In the same year Mr Audley announced plans to demolish part of the building and build 102 flats in a five-story block.
After much campaigning local residents’ groups, Friends of Saltdean Lido, Saltdean Residents Association and Saltdean Community Association managed to get the English Heritage to award the Lido a Grade 2* listing, meaning it was safe from demolition.
However, despite the groups’ victory, the argument surrounding its lease and its use in the community continues.
Although the outside of the Lido has seen better days, the inside of the building remains a thriving hub of the community.
It houses Saltdean’s only library and is used for regular dance and live music nights, children’s parties and community meetings.
Liz Lee is Chairwoman of the Saltdean Community Association and a long-time Saltdean resident.
She said: “Over 25 groups use the centre, 700 people attend groups there every week. If the centre closes there’d be no place else for them to go.
“It’s the only community centre in Saltdean and the library is the second most used library in the whole of Brighton. We’d love to see it restored and made fit for the 21st Century.”
She went on to talk about how the restoration might be made possible and the ways in which the centre could be funded.
She said: “They could lay a ground source heat pump. It’s a very economical and environmentally friendly way to heat the pool. We could have a gym and a café and these would help subsidise the pool. The cost of the restoration would have to come from grant funding, like the lottery or the English Heritage. There’s lots of pressure on organisations though, there’s more organisations chasing less money. But being such an iconic building, I’m sure it’d be looked upon favourably.”
There is also the historical aspect to be considered, the lido is an iconic symbol of 1930s Britain.
At a time when lidos were incredibly fashionable, Saltdean’s lido, with its 140-foot pool and vast sun deck used to attract visitors from all over the country.
Rebecca Crook is the Chairwoman of the Save Saltdean Lido campaign, which is run by Friends of Saltdean Lido to campaign for a sustainable future for the Lido.
She said of the lido: “They are really precious and there are not many of them left around and actually now it’s the only one that’s Grade 2* listed in the whole country, so it’s a real honour to have it in the city centre.
“It really deserves recognition to be restored and preserved for future generations.”
Kemptown MP Simon Kirby voiced his support of the residents’ groups at a council meeting last week.
He said: “The lido is not a problem waiting to be resolved but an asset with bags of potential in terms of employment, leisure facilities and providing employment but it is obvious that the leaseholder is not going to walk away from the situation.”
However, Buckinghamshire-based Accountant, Mr Audley says his goal is to preserve the lido, not demolish it. He claims all the negative publicity surrounding his plans has destroyed his business and the maintenance of the lido has cost him £500,000.
He said: “The lido is not disappearing, it’s not being demolished, we are going to continue to run the Lido until such time as we do achieve a planning consent that adheres to everyone’s wishes.”
However, Brighton and Hove City Council reports that Mr Audley has failed to keep up with essential repairs and has also failed to stick to the opening hours required by the council. The council have already issued him a repairs notice, if he does not comply with a second notice, the council could seize back full control of the lido.
Mr Audley said: “We have opened every day. There are certain days when we’ve closed earlier than the latest possible time due to inclement weather.”
The council fully support the plight of the residents over the lido.
Council Leader Mary Mears said: “Brighton and Hove City Council will continue to work with the leaseholder and residents to make sure the existing building is looked after and that any new proposals that come forward are in line with the council’s aim of protecting the lido and for the community of Brighton and Hove.”
The vital role the lido plays in community life in Saltdean is clear.
With 3000 signatures on the latest petition it is evident that everyone in this community feels the same.
Taking away the lido would destroy the community spirit of a town that has worked so hard to maintain it, in a world where a sense of community is quickly dying out.
Saltdean’s lido is one of only three left in the entire country. It would be such a shame to eradicate such an important part of our heritage.