The Society’s involvement with R W H Jones’ elegant lido in Saltdean, probably the best Lido in the UK, stretches back to the publication of our pivotal Thirties Society campaign report, Farewell My Lido, in 1991. The first document to seriously assess the conservation issues surrounding lidos, the report’s mournful title was apt for the time and, unfortunately, despite a few hard won successes later on, prophetic too.
Listed in 1987 and for some years the only lido in the country to be given the honour, Saltdean Lido is probably the most architecturally significant open-air pool in the country. Following threats of substantial alteration to the building and its setting, the Society has recently underlined the importance of the structure by supporting a listing upgrade, from the current Grade II to II*.
The significance of Saltdean Lido rests not only on the building’s obvious architectural charms, but also on the wider context in which it was built. Saltdean as a place is largely a C20th creation, with the building of most of the area’s houses taking place in the 1920s and ’30s. Saltdean followed on from Peacehaven as a residential seaside development by the real estate businessman Charles W Neville and included some very fine houses by Connell, Ward and Lucas. Between 1931 and 1938, the number of houses in Saltdean increased from 103 to 802 and along with these houses came two other significant structures, both by the same architect and both in a similar style, the Ocean Hotel and Saltdean Lido.
The Hotel, much altered, has recently been through a change of use, from hotel to apartments and commercial facilities. The essence of the building remains intact however, despite some regrettable additions. Similar in form is the gently curving lido building and again there has been a degree of alteration-the loss of the diving boards being perhaps the most significant change. The Lido has struggled as a commercial concern in the last decade, being slightly too far from Brighton to be within walking distance of the seaside crowds. It is a pool you have to plan your trip to-and at present its summer season is just 6 weeks long, nowhere near enough to make it economically viable. A mixture of managerial and geographical factors leaves Saltdean Lido in a perilous position. On the back of this, a local campaign has formed and C20 has been working closely with them throughout the summer to try to find a way forward.
The current owner, Denis Audley, has been working with the architects at CAMplan to come up with a scheme to regenerate the lido. Unfortunately CAMplan’s initial scheme saw five-storey flats in front of the lido structure, the filling in of both pools and the building of a large, futuristic glass bubble on the back of the curved building which replaces the existing ancillary structures. After some unsuccessful public consultation CAMplan appears to have retreated to the drawing board again, but the desire to push ahead with a similar scheme seems likely. At the forefront of the public campaign to save the Lido is Rebecca Crooks, who here gives the Society an update on the current situation:
The Save Saltdean Lido Group have been hard at work since the initial announcement, canvassing local opinion on preferred uses for the site and starting to develop a business plan to demonstrate to the Council, from whom Mr Audley holds a 125 year lease, that despite his claims that he has lost £250,000 over the last few years, the complex could be viable if operated sensibly. Local residents reacted angrily to the prospect of a six storey apartment block on the site, which is zoned by Brighton & Hove City Council for community/leisure use. An online campaign group formed in the wake of the first public consultation soon grew to over seven thousand members.
The campaign group has recruited Conran & Partners to help bring to life the group’s vision for the site which will form part of the business plan. Possible considerations under review are ground source heating to help prolong the season of the swimming pool, commercial opportunities such as a café/restaurant, and improved community facilities and amenities.
Whilst Mr Audley insisted at the public meetings that BHCC were responsible for maintenance of the site, the Council has now served a Section 146 notice, listing over 50 pages of ‘wants of repair’ to both the pool and the community centre which is housed within the complex.
The campaign group have applied to English Heritage to have the Listing upgraded to II*, in an effort to protect the building in its setting, and have set up the charity Friends of Saltdean Lido, so that both local residents and supporters further afield can join the fight to save and restore the Lido to its former glory. Details of the membership scheme can be found on the Group’s website (www.saltdeanlidocampaign.org).
Grade II* listing underlines the building’s outstanding importance and crucially could unlock funding for repairs. We also support the principle of the alternative scheme for the building which would see the lido reborn for a new generation of south coast swimmers. Let’s hope it happens and we can organise a trip to test the water.