Lido Regeneration on hold as Brighton & Hove City Council refuse financial aid for new electricity sub-station

Saltdean Lido CIC today announced that work on the £10m regeneration of Saltdean Lido has been suspended with immediate effect following a meeting with Brighton & Hove council officials.

The meeting - which took place on Friday 2 October - was called following the revelation that insufficient electricity exists in Saltdean to power the Lido site, and a new sub-station is required. UK Power Networks has stated that a new sub-station will cost the volunteers, £69,566.46 excluding VAT.

The problem was identified when CIC electrical consultants discovered that incumbent power cables had been incorrectly labeled and could only deliver a third of the power that the building needs.  This problem was exacerbated by the fact that a sub-station that had previously existed on the lido site has been removed despite a lease which isn’t due to end until 2045.  Neither Brighton & Hove City Council nor UK Power Networks can account for the sub-station’s removal, which was detailed in the Council’s Bid Information Pack in March 2013 and taken by the CIC as confirmation that adequate power was readily available.

Having already independently raised almost £8 million of the £10 million required for complete renovation, Saltdean Lido CIC approached the council for a community loan representing less than 0.7% of the project’s total value. The Council have not contributed any funds to the £8million already raised by the local resident volunteers.

In a meeting held in July, verbal assurances were received from Warren Morgan, Labour Leader of the Council and Interim CEO Geoff Raw who assured that they would do everything they could to help with the sub-station costs. The meeting was also attended by Head of Sport & Leisure Services, Ian Shurrock, however subsequent e-mail correspondence to the CIC from Shurrock he flatly refuses the request, citing ‘cutbacks’ and ‘the council will not be presenting solutions to costs relating to the sub-station.’  The council continues to sit on £335,000 of Section 106 money already allocated to the lido project.

The millions already raised by Saltdean Lido CIC has been allocated to specific build costs and cannot accommodate unexpected expenses of this magnitude. £700,000 has already been spent this year in building a new plant room for the pool and other external works.  The CIC are awaiting to sign the building contract with the pool company for the next phase of works but cannot do so if there is insufficient power supply to the site.

Opened in 1938, Saltdean Lido is the only Grade II* (star) listed lido in the country and was recently named as one of Seven Wonders of the Seaside by Historic England (formerly English Heritage).  It was members of the CIC who wrote and submitted an application for the Grade II* (star) listing to help protect it from residential development from the council’s previous tenant.

However, as freeholder of the site, Brighton & Hove City Council has a well-documented history of neglect and incompetence that led to the site being added to English Heritage’s Buildings ‘At Risk Register’ in 2011 and at that time was the only building on the ‘At Risk Register’ owned by a local authority. This, despite a string of recent multi-million pound investments in other sites in Brighton such as the Volks Railway, Stanmer Park and, of course, the i360 – as well as a £270,000 payoff to the former council CEO.  In a Freedom of Information request obtained Brighton & Hove City Council have pledged proposed match funding to the tune of £6,130,889 to other heritage bids across the city since 2013 with Saltdean Lido receiving zero.  In the same FOI request £111,030 was paid out in third party costs to support those bids with none going to Saltdean Lido.

Rebecca Crook, chair of Saltdean Lido, said: “It is heartbreaking to have come so far and got so close to reaching our goal. When our group was named as the next leaseholder of the Saltdean Lido site, councilors instructed officials to give us every assistance possible. Unfortunately the opposite has happened despite the fact that the council owns the Lido building and without the CIC would be faced with maintaining it.  Our ward councillors and other councillors have been very helpful and we feel that the project handled by council officials is now at a serious cross-roads and if we do not receive the councils full support at this time it will be in jeopardy.

During the pre-tender submissions to the Council, interested parties were not permitted access to the site to undertake their own surveys and had to rely on Council reports which have transpired as misleading with the electrical sub-station a prime example.  The Council building surveys provided were millions short of the actual costs it will take to bring the building back into use.

 She continued: “Every day we hear the council talking about the i360; but what about protecting the treasures that we already have? The lido is an iconic and much-loved building that was recently named one of the seven wonders of the seaside.  I have no doubt that had it been located in central Brighton or Hove…it would have been a very different story.”

While historic Lido renovation projects in Ipswich and Pontypridd have been supported to the tune of £1 million and £900,000 by their local councils, earlier this year Brighton & Hove City Council officials rubber stamped plans for a rival outdoor swimming pool just three miles east of Saltdean Lido.

The Council is currently holding nearly more than £2 million of grant money that the CIC received (with no help from the council).  This money can still be used by the council to renovate the external area but they will still require a new sub-station in order to complete this phase of works and open the pool next summer. However, the future of the £4.7 million Heritage Lottery funding for the renovation of the Lido building in 2016/17 will be in question following this latest news as will the future of the entire project.

Simon Kirby MP, Brighton Kemptown & Peacehaven, said "Having worked closely with the CIC and local residents over the last 5 years and helped lobby Government for substantial funds to make the lido a reality, I urge the Council to do all they can to assist at this crucial stage."

Cathy Gallagher, chair of Saltdean Residents’ Association, said: “Local residents fully back the CIC and their aims to bring the Lido back into full use. Ultimately the lido belongs to Brighton & Hove City Council and without the CIC’s drive, passion and success in securing money for the building, they will now need to come up with an urgent alternative plan for its renovation.”