£7.5m restoration begins at iconic 1930s Saltdean Lido

£7.5m restoration begins at iconic 1930s Saltdean Lido

A multi-million pound restoration scheme is now underway to repair the iconic 1930s Saltdean Lido building in East Sussex and bring it back into use.

New major grants from The National Lottery Heritage Fund (£4.2m) and Historic England (£215,000) – supported by years of additional fundraising by the local community and £2.5m from Brighton & Hove City Council – have enabled this £7.5m project to go ahead.

The much-loved and architecturally significant landmark lido has seen a change in fortune in recent years thanks to the dedication of the volunteer-led Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company (CIC) and the support of many partners. Funding has already been awarded towards developing the scope of the restoration project by the Heritage Fund, Historic England, Coastal Communities, Social Investment in Business funds, and Brighton & Hove City Council.

Saltdean Lido CIC reopened the main pool in 2017 to great acclaim. Now the dilapidated Grade II* building will be restored and refurbished so that the lido complex functions as whole again and it can be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

The restored site will include a poolside café, library, Art Deco ballroom, exercise studio, shared workspace facilities, community rooms and heritage and learning space which will tell the story of Saltdean Lido’s unique social history and celebrate its role in the golden age of the lido movement.

The lido is Grade II*[star] listed, placing it among the top 8% of all listed buildings in England. It is the one of only three Grade II* listed lidos in the country.

The Art Deco lido epitomises some of the best elements of the modernist movement. Designed by the architect Richard Jones, it was built between 1937 and 1938 to elevate Saltdean’s status as a fashionable seaside resort. Paying sixpence to enter, residents and holidaymakers flocked to the complex which included a pool, a purpose-built beach and sunbathing lawns.

But just three years later in 1941, the lido was requisitioned by the National Fire Service who used it as a water tank, and the grounds were used by instructors and fire officers for training exercises. After the Second World War it lay derelict for years. In 1952 the entrepreneur Billy Butlin tried to acquire the site but his plans for an American-style resort were rejected for being ‘out of character with the neighbourhood’. Following a complete restoration by Brighton Council, the lido re-opened in 1964 and was a community hub for decades. The lido changed hands in the late 1990s and when in 2010 the leaseholder revealed plans to close the lido forever and redevelop the site, a campaign was set up by local residents to save it – and they succeeded.

It is on the Heritage at Risk Register mainly because of the poor state of the original reinforced concrete walls, which have suffered corrosion due to building’s exposed coastal location.

Preparatory works on-site have been completed and the main restoration is now underway, led by contractors Buxton, with an expected opening in late summer 2023.

Stuart McLeod, Director England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Thanks to a £4.2million grant raised by National Lottery players, the Saltdean Lido will be brought back to life from the Heritage at Risk register. This community-led project has saved this important Grade II* listed lido and will ensure it can be enjoyed by visitors and its local community for many years to come.”

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive, Historic England, said: “The handsome Saltdean Lido was inspired by contemporary ocean liner and aircraft design and is architecturally probably the finest in England. Outdoor swimming has seen a huge rise in popularity in recent years and I’m delighted that Historic England is supporting the revival of this community-focused building. Heritage and wellbeing are so closely linked and I offer my congratulations to all the volunteers that have campaigned and come together to see the Lido reopened and reimagined for the 21st century.”

Derek Leaver, Chair, Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company said: “Bringing new life to this unique building will create a destination venue for visitors to come and enjoy all that the 1930s Art-Deco lido movement promised, while also serving to be a vibrant community hub for all those volunteers who have worked so hard to bring this restoration project about.”

Cllr Martin Osborne, co-chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee, said: “This is fantastic news and a major step forward in the restoration of this iconic art deco building, and the creation of a much-needed community facility.”