Saltdean Lido: The Seventh Wonder of the English Seaside

Saltdean Lido: The Seventh Wonder of the English Seaside

On Saturday 17th June, Saltdean Lido once again came alive with the sounds of laughter, splashing and delight from swimmers and sunbathers basking in the holiday-like atmosphere, as the art deco lido reopened – thanks to the dedication of local volunteers.

Not wanting to miss such a momentous occasion Absolute’s Shelley Welti grabbed her swimming costume and met with Deryck Chester, director of the Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company and lifelong Saltdean resident to find out all about the community project.

Hi Deryck, how does it feel to be reopening?

It’s very exciting. It’s been seven years since the former leaseholder announced plans to fill the pool with concrete and build 125 apartments on the historic site. It’s been a mammoth journey and thousands of hours have been spent by our team of volunteers getting us to this point. There have been many twists and turns but we feel elated. Saltdean Lido is a magical site and seeing all these people here, enjoying themselves, has made it all worthwhile!

Why was it so important for you to bring the lido back to life? 

Saltdean was once a proud holiday resort village, developed as a gentrified extension to Brighton’s tourism industry. We lost its sister building, the Ocean Hotel, to residential development. If we’d lost the lido too it would have been a travesty, not only for Saltdean, but Brighton as a whole.

The tourism industry of Saltdean, Rottingdean and east Brighton has suffered since the closure of the Ocean Hotel. The reopening of Saltdean Lido, we hope, will bring back increased footfall to the region. Hundreds of people have already contacted us saying they will now be holidaying in Brighton, for the first time in years, so that they can visit Saltdean Lido again.

What made you get involved?

I grew up in Saltdean in the 80s when it was a bustling holiday destination. I learnt to swim at the lido and as a teenager, used to visit with friends. My first job was also at the Ocean Hotel. Being surrounded by this wonderful modernist architecture, in a fun holiday environment, was a simple pleasure I took for granted as a child.

However, after studying history and learning of the lido’s plight as an adult, I decided I’d use my local knowledge and research skills to get involved with the project and join the team of professional volunteers who’ve helped make this project happen.

How much has it cost so far?

Phase one has cost £2.9 million. This has included reinstating the original 1938 pool tank, a brand new plant room, a wet play area, landscaping and new changing room facilities.

The majority of capital funds have come from the Coastal Communities Fund, Social Investment Business and People’s Millions.

Donations from the community have been vital in helping us get set up, especially when we were fighting to stop the development of flats. Our sponsor a brick in the ‘wall of fame’ was also important in helping us build a new substation. Without those donations Saltdean Lido wouldn’t have a power supply.

What are you looking forward to most about opening up to the public again?

To see people enjoying this pool as it was originally intended – plus the fact that it’s now heated properly for the first time in its history, at 27 degrees!

Saltdean Lido is Brighton’s last historic pool – we’re so lucky to have this on our doorstep! There’s something incredibly special about its design. When swimming in the pool it feels like you’ve been transported back in time to the hedonistic days of the 1930s when outdoor exercise and pleasure-seeking were all the rage. The way the rotunda rises above the pool like the bow of an ocean liner, with its wings gracefully hugging the crescent end of the pool, it feels like being on holiday at some chic European holiday resort. If you’ve not been here before, try it! I think that most people will be pleasantly surprised!

The volunteer-run Saltdean Lido Community Interest Company are now working towards Phase two of the project, to restore the building to its former glory with a cafe/restaurant/events space, community spaces and library, subject to funding. If you’re able to help, please contact:

Saltdean Lido is open every day from 8th July – mid-September.