For Roger Deakin, the writer who swam throughout Britain for his book Waterlog, lidos are “the cathedrals amongst swimming pools, of immense value to our culture and enjoyment of life”. Clearly not everyone agrees. Wychavon district council in Worcestershire has decided to bulldoze Europe’s last art deco, inland, saltwater lido.
Droitwich Spa lido was opened in 1935 to provide “the exhilaration of open-air bathing with bathroom comfort” and was a popular community facility until its closure in 2000 for essential repairs. Since then, the council has been undecided about what to do with it. Now it has opted to use a £100,000 grant from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to create what it claims will be a “fun family-friendly facility” on the lido site, by building a shallow pool for children, flanked by a beach and wet-play area.
But critics of the redevelopment say the new fish-shaped pool will be too shallow for adults to swim in and is an ill-conceived idea. Labour councillor John Wrenn says: “The wet-play area is suitable for five-year-olds rather than the whole family. It won’t do.”
Many Droitwich residents seem to agree. Local campaign group Salt (Save a Lido Today) points to a parish poll in April when people voted by 3,899 to 71 v2 electronic cigarette to re-open the lido in its original form, and last month hundreds of yellow ribbons were attached to railings around the town in protest at the council’s plans.
Ian Wild, a Salt spokesman, says: “I’m not against wet-play areas; it’s where you put them, though. The whole idea of a lido is that it’s a swimming pool with a special ethos that comes from a social and architectural movement.”
The lido is one of the few inland brine pools in the country, capitalising on Droitwich’s reserves of natural rock salt, and the Twentieth Century Society says its architecture “should certainly be preserved”.
Martin Jennings, Wychavon council’s Conservative leader, believes that lidos are no longer viable and has called on local people to get behind the new project. “Our new plans have brought the idea of an open-air recreational pool into the 21st century and I want residents to move with us to benefit from this major investment in the town,” he says.
Jennings wants work to start on the wet-play area next month. Meanwhile, the lido’s supporters claim that there has not been adequate public consultation and vow to take legal action if they can show the law has been broken. Some campaigners are proposing to withhold their council tax in protest.