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High Street Swimsuit Showdown to Protest Lido Lockdown

Published on: 3 Aug, 2020
Updated on: 7 Aug, 2020

Lido protesters in the High Street today (August 1, 2020)

By Martin Giles

Thirty stalwart Friends of Guildford Lido stripped off to their bathing suits on Saturday (August 1) on Guildford High Street to protest the council decision to keep the Lido closed, despite government permission to open swimming pools.

And on Sunday the protest was repeated. Taking part were Tina and Jack Thornber. Tina has had a season ticket every year from 1945 to 2019, an uninterrupted 75-year run. Jack started at the Lido in 1947, though they weren’t married at the time, as Jack was six.

Lido regulars since the 1940s Tina (white top)  and Jack Thornber (black top) protesting yesterday (Aug 2). Photo: Mandy Millyard.

A fellow protestor said: “Tina swam a length of the Lido in 2019, after a lot of persuasion. It was her first time.  She is one of the few regulars who doesn’t like the lane ropes, as she only did widths for her first 74 years.”

At the Saturday protest, Mrs Caroline Sawers said: “We are demonstrating because our Lido is not open. A third of the Lidos in the country already have and they are all doing very well, booked solid and we can’t really understand why the council is going against all its documents on health and welfare of the citizens, not to allow us to swim in our Lido.”

A protestor hands out “Save Our Swims” leaflets.

The council said because of pressure on their budgets caused by Coronavirus they can’t afford to open the Lido because it costs £36,000 a month to run.

Mrs Sawers said: “I do appreciate all the calls on their resources but swimming is such a healthy exercise for everybody, especially the ones who can’t go to gyms and can’t bicycle and can’t do other things. You know, for the elderly, the pregnant; swimming in the open air is the best exercise there is.

“We don’t want to swim in the Spectrum. It’s indoors. The whole point of the Lido is that it is civilised ‘wild’ swimming. And it makes such a difference to so many people and we want to go on doing it.”

She added that the demonstration had been organised at very short notice so only about 30 of the 500 to 600 members of the Friends of the Lido, some of whom in their 80s, were present.

Interview with Mrs Caroline Sawers  (apologies for poor sound quality).

GBC Cllr James Steel (Lib Dem, Westborough), lead for the Environment, who announced the decision a week ago, said today: “I can fully understand the frustration by regular users of the Lido, I have received plenty of correspondence on the matter. After deliberation, we decided on two grounds to keep the Lido closed until next season, these being financial and visitor experience-based.

Cllr James Steel

“We are spending £2m on supporting Freedom Leisure (operator of Spectrum, Lido and Ash Manor) from the council’s reserves. This has included the opening of the indoor lane swimming, gym, sports track, and sports halls at the Spectrum and Ash Manor and there would’ve been a potential additional cost of more than £75k for the two months left of the season to open the Lido.

“In regards to visitor experience based on last year’s numbers, 81 per cent of total visitors were leisure-based (so were coming to enjoy the sun and jump in whenever they felt like it) and the lane swimming was 7.25 per cent. Season ticket-holders made up 12 per cent.

“Given government restrictions and guidance, we couldn’t cater for the leisure visitor. The perceived demand coupled with the cost to the council’s finances leads to the regrettable decision to keep it closed this summer.

“We are open to any proposals that the Friends of Guildford Lido have to open the Lido for lane swimming for the rest of the season. We have provided all the Lido financial and operating data to allow them to put this together.”

See also: Why Guildford Lido Will Not Be Opened This Summer

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Responses to High Street Swimsuit Showdown to Protest Lido Lockdown

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    August 2, 2020 at 8:38 am

    The council can’t find £76,000 to open a health-giving, public amenity but can so easily find over a hundred grand to pay off a planning head who quit, so should have been entitled to nothing.

    What are they so afraid of us knowing about that departure? Was it knowledge of nefarious behaviour behind the Local Plan and more details of the phoney letter of support from SCC supporting the “garden village” at Wisley?

    • Martin Dowland Reply

      August 7, 2020 at 10:55 pm

      Slightly skewed view of stats based on times tickets sold.

      To look forward to the future, these sites need to review what they are there for. ThisCouncil seems to be missing the point here.

      Reviewing the whole functionality of Lidos is needed in a post-Covid-19 lockdown world.

      There are good examples. I’ve swum in them; today even.

  2. Neil Brifett Reply

    August 2, 2020 at 8:46 am

    Arundel and Hampton Lidos are going great guns. GBC failed to consult with the Lido users before making their decision. I’m pleased they have now started to consult with the users. A graceful U-turn would be to their credit.

    Outdoor swimming is a very safe form of exercise in the midst of a global pandemic of great value to the community especially those who are unable to exercise in any other way.

  3. Sally Parrott Reply

    August 2, 2020 at 9:07 am

    What a brilliant idea!

    Very well done to all who attended the protest, and especially to spokesperson Caroline Sawers. Lovely that the sun shone for them – some people seemed less tanned than they would normally be in August.

    It’s certainly got people talking on Facebook, though many seemed unaware that outside the core recreational hours there are very busy lane swims, with people who swim in all weathers.

    Let’s hope it persuades GBC to change its mind. Thank you Guildford Dragon for covering this unusual protest.

  4. Ailsa Vincent Reply

    August 2, 2020 at 8:53 pm

    I suggest early morning swims for over 60s. Morning slots for families, afternoon for teens with youth workers in attendance, and evenings for working folk.

    The borough council has used groundsmen to paint grids on lawns to assist social distancing and it has introduced online booking, an exit from the north access gate.

    Better the Lido lawns than pub gardens. Better safe supervised swimming in the Lido rather than random water such as the River Wey and Wisley Lake. The council should think outside the box and support mental health, fight obesity, get fit and fight Covid.

  5. Kate Simpson Reply

    August 4, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    Please open the Lido before it is too late. This is a fantastic facility and should be enjoyed by all.

    Get the over 60’s swimming families and others at timed entry. Last year it was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed my early swim.

    I will not be going to swim indoors at the Spectrum as I think it is so unsafe.

  6. Martin Elliott Reply

    August 8, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    Cllr Steel is again failing to provide a complete reason. Yes, the council is spending funds at two other venues. He estimates a cost/expenditure of £78k to open/operate the lido for the rest of the season.

    But any decision making requires a complete statement of benefits and drawbacks. Are these “costs” gross or net? If the latter, what are the operating modes considered and the income received.

    How does that compare to a “normal” season?

    At the moment Cllr Steel’s presented financial case is he doesn’t want to spend an undefined £78k whatever.

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