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Guildford Lido Could Get £2 Million Refurbishment

Published on: 23 Aug, 2022
Updated on: 29 Aug, 2022

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

Guildford Lido is in line for a full refurbishment because its drainage system has failed, in a project that could cost more than £2 million.

The Guildford Lido.

The open-air swimming pool, which can see more than 2,500 visitors on busy days needs its original drainage system replaced which will also involve pulling out the current changing rooms and toilets.

Guildford Borough Council is responsible for the drainage system at the site, despite it being one of the three operated by Freedom Leisure on behalf of the authority under the Leisure Partnership Agreement.

A meeting of its executive on Thursday night (August 25) will vote on the recommendation to move £600,000 from its capital budget – used for long-term projects in the borough, to help meet the costs of the project.

There is £1.5 million available in a designated Leisure Partnership Agreement Reserve, and some works have already been carried out using money from the council’s revenue budget.

A borough council report into the works on the “hidden gem” 50-metre pool set in six acres of grounds said typically there were around 80,000 visits per year to the lido, but in a busy year with better weather the number would be “significantly over this”.

A drainage survey commissioned in 2019 showed the system had completely failed, and according to council documents, it “requires essential replacement for the venue to remain operational”.

To get to the system, the current changing rooms would have to be pulled down and rebuilt, adding to the current facilities.

The works would also include a new poolside refreshment kiosk, the fitting of which would be funded by Freedom Leisure, the current operator.

A council report said: “The proposed scheme represents an opportunity to modernise and increase the provision of some of these essential facilities which will improve the customer experience, make the venue more accessible and hopefully make the site even more popular.”

Guildford Borough Council’s Milmaed offices.

Costs for the project have increased since an original June 2021 estimate, with works re-estimated in April up to £970,000 and currently estimated at £1.2m.

The borough council has received nine submissions for the work, with quotes ranging from £1.7 – £2.1 million but a contract has not yet been awarded due to the shortfall in funding.

Council officers described as “prudent” a total budget for the project of £2.1 million to include an allowance for fees and a contingency.

Risks identified in the project include that if works, scheduled for this winter, overran then the operator would be able to claim from the council for lost net revenue.

Works should be carried out between October and March 31, 2023 but as a lot of the work is weather dependent, there are risks involved in carrying it out over the winter.  Council documents note the work would “typically be done in the summer” to reduce the risk of weather delays.

The improvements to the site would include: Larger toilet cubicles and changing cubicles to meet current standards. Two accessible ambulant disabled toilet, shower, and wash hand basin. Increased toilet (five additional) and vanity (eight additional wash hand basins) provision. Increased showers with four individual cubicles available. 12 family change cubicles. Better canopy coverage. Easier to clean and maintain. Better ventilation and more natural lighting. Low energy LED lighting with smart controls. Water-saving percussion-operated showers, sensor taps, and dual flush cisterns. Better storage for the operator (including the wheelchair hoist storage) and a larger poolside refreshment kiosk.

Guildford Lido in the 1930s. Picture: David Rose collection.

Guildford Lido was opened in 1933 and built during a time of depression and mass unemployment. The town’s Work Fund was a fund-raising project to provide paid work for unemployed men. Some of the funds raised paid men to work building the lido.

In November 1932 the then Mayor of Guildford, William Harvey, launched the scheme. Guildfordians who were earning a wage, or who were suitably well off, were asked to contribute in whatever way they could to support it.

It was calculated that by estimating the total number of unemployed people in the borough of Guildford (about 650 out of a population of 40,000), each man given employment through the Work Fund would receive a minimum 35 shillings (£1.52) a week for about 35 hours’ work.

The lido cost £13,700 to build and was officially opened on June 21 1933, by the Mayor, William Harvey, who was the first person to dive in and take a swim. On that day 8,000 people packed into the lido.

Entry charges were: Sundays and weekdays (excepting Tuesday and Saturday mornings) 6d (two and a half pence) per person; Tuesdays and Saturday mornings 1 shilling (five pence) per person. On bank holidays the entry fee rose to 9d (four and a half pence) per person, children 4d (two pence). A monthly season ticket cost 7 shillings and 6d (38 pence).

‘Light flimsy costumes’ were banned and the car park was free except on gala days.

The Work Fund closed in 1933. Some £10,000 had been raised and more than 150,000 hours of work had been provided.

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Responses to Guildford Lido Could Get £2 Million Refurbishment

  1. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    August 25, 2022 at 9:42 am

    Unfortunately, considering the poor financial situation Guildford Borough Council claims to be in, questions should be asked whether spending £2.1 million on the lido is a valid use of council (our) funds.

    Is the lido essential or is it a luxury?

    Public toilets have been closed due to lack of funding but, apparently, £2.1 million can be found for a luxury project.

    Considering the extremely bad decisions made over the paddling pool at Stoke Park, I have little faith that this work will come in on time and on budget.

    It is a win win for Freedom Leisure who have none of the risks and all of the profit.

    Maybe it is about time to say goodbye to the lido and use the land for much needed affordable and social housing, which would be of greater benefit to the people of Guildford.

  2. Jane Hepburn Reply

    August 25, 2022 at 4:12 pm

    I’m all in favour of a bit of a revamp but really hope the original character of the changing cubicles and small huts scattered around the site, will be kept.

    At Shere pool, the changing cubicles have just been redone and they are marvellously in keeping with the original design, just tidier and brighter.

    Please, no posh formica cubicles, those are in keeping with the Surrey Sports Park or Spectrum leisure centre, but not our beloved Lido.

    There’s nothing wrong with a bit of rustic charm.

    Also, perhaps the original fountains at either end could be resurrected?

    I remember them well and they were great fun.

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