Will Brighton's Modernist marvel sink without trace?

Campaigners fight to save decaying 1930s lido from wrecking ball

In 1937, at the height of the German-inspired fashion for open air bathing, Richard Jones opened his streamlined Saltdean Lido near Brighton. It remains the outstanding example of Marine Modernist architecture in Britain.

However, its condition has gradually deteriorated since 1997, when Brighton and Hove City Council assigned a 150-year lease to accountant and leisure sector businessman Dennis Audley, and the pool could meet the wrecking ball as part of plans to redevelop the site with flats.

Sir Terence Conran's architecture firm has joined the increasingly messy fight to save Saltdean Lido.

Sir Terence said: "I find it quite disgraceful that the lido has been left to rot. We must find ways to preserve our architectural heritage and breathe new life in to beautiful old buildings."

A key precedent looms. If Saltdean, of all lidos, is redeveloped clumsily, it may trigger a laissez-faire approach that could see most of Britain's 50-odd Modernist lidos facing architectural ruin.

Campaigners hope to persuade the council, which owns the lido, to take back the lease from Mr Audley and let them run the grade II-listed baths on a not-for-profit basis. The Save Saltdean Lido campaign has generated 7,000 supporters on Facebook, staged public meetings and asked English Heritage to request Grade II* listing. The influential 20th Century Society supports that move.

This isn't just a Punch and Judy show five miles east of Brighton – supposedly venal developer versus frightfully concerned local worthies. There is something implicitly feckless about it all. There are 400,000 people in the Brighton and Hove conurbation, many of them well-heeled and style-conscious.

Yet Mr Audley's architect, Mark Strawbridge, claimed that the council's leisure services department had told him that nobody used the lido – and that the council didn't need an outdoor pool. He also described Conran and Partners as "gross opportunists".

The architect said that Mr Audley's original 102-apartment scheme for the lido had been deliberately provocative in the face of council indecision. (It was duly blocked by local opposition.)

Mr Strawbridge's new design, likely to be submitted in September would restore the lido's key features, create a new indoor pool, and an off-site library and community centre. The scheme features roof gardens and solar power technology. He insisted that the poor condition of the lido was the result of pre-lease council repairs which had sealed in concrete-rotting moisture. And he said that Mr Audley would strongly contest a recent statutory repair notice served by the council. "Lidos have to be subsidised," he added.

The ghost of Hans Uren, Prussian author of the 1924 bestseller Man and Sunlight, must be glaring down in disbelief from Valhalla at the decayed concrete of Saltdean Lido. "Greetings to you, you who are sun lovers!" he wrote. "You bear ardent longings in your hearts! Longings after warm sunshine, blue skies, light and nature, victorious strength, spiritual loftiness and childlike faith."

What has happened to those ardent longings? Why are historically significant lidos such as Tinside Lido at Plymouth struggling to remain viable, despite a £3m makeover? It's the same story at the magnificent Jubilee Pool, Penzance, which is "limping on" according to Jon Wright of the 20th Century Society. Is lido water simply too cold for 21st-century bathers?

Broomhill Pool at Ipswich is a salutary example of the situation facing many lidos. Icelandic bank fal-out and new public sector cutbacks at the local authority killed a previously ring-fenced £1m to support modernisation proposals co-drafted by the Broomhill Pool Trust and Fusion Lifestyle – the latter have already turned lidos at Brockhurst Park and Uxbridge into going concerns. Yet if Ipswich Council is forced to privatise its leisure facilities, Broomhill Pool could still be saved as part of a private operator's rescue deal, said the Trust's spokesman, Mike Cook.

Conran and Partners is working free of charge with the Save Saltdean Lido Campaign to draw up alternative plans to make the site viable, without touching the elegantly designed ensemble of its pool, sun deck, curved wings, raised terrace and cafe. Conran's project architect Paul Zara has already successfully refurbished another equally iconic local building from the 1930s, Embassy Court in Hove.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect