a regeneration dream

Tynemouth outdoor pool…

I live approximately three miles from Tynemouth Long Sands, with its beautiful outdoor swimming pool. We use it all the time; look how gorgeous and picturesque it is!

Except, it’s not…(yet)…because in reality, Tynemouth outdoor pool currently looks like this:

…the current reality

The pool was built in 1925 to answer the demand for a safe, outdoor swimming environment. It was a salt water tidal pool and was used for water polo, and as a serious training pool, as well as proving extremely popular with locals and holidaymakers for over fifty years. However, the advent of cheap package deals towards the end of the 1970s saw more holidaymakers begin to venture abroad. Tynemouth became just another British coastal resort losing out to the sunshine and sangria that Spain offered the emerging British market.

The outdoor pool continued to be used for training by private scuba and canoe clubs in the 1980s, but funding was cut and it very sadly declined into disrepair. In 1996 the decision was taken by the local authority to close the pool. Soon after, its ancillary buildings were razed and the pool was filled with concrete and boulders to create an artificial ‘rock pool’. Unfortunately, marine life did not flourish as hoped, and instead it gradually became an eyesore.

…a rusting rock pool…

For the last few years, however, there has been a growing desire among local people to see the pool regenerated and brought back into use. It occupies a lovely site at the southern end of Tynemouth Long Sands and renewal would obviously enhance the area instead of detracting from it, while appealing both to the growing number of ‘staycationers’ and to holidaymakers from further afield. Hundreds of people have already pledged several hundred thousand pounds, and a charity called The Friends of Tynemouth Pool has been set up and is working with local planning officers and private companies. Renewing the pool is one of the most ambitious community-driven regeneration projects the United Kingdom has ever seen.

While the basic aim is to get the pool back into use, many people would like to improve on the original outdoor pool by seeing it heated. This would attract more visitors and make it attractive to everyone, regardless of age or ability. The heating may have to be seasonal, but as well as exploring traditional plant options, using boilers to heat the water, engineers are also considering more innovative ideas such as geothermal heating. The geothermal option is a possibility because the site is close to the Ninety Fathom Fault, a geographical fault line that runs underneath the nearby city of Newcastle upon Tyne and meets the sea near neighbouring Cullercoats. Drilling into subsurface rocks would allow engineers to tap into natural heat and use this energy source to produce hot water.

It is hoped that the work will be completed in two phases. The first, estimated to cost £1.4m, would see the pool restored as a public, heated outdoor pool with temporary changing facilities. The second, more ambitious, phase would cost around £4m and includes the construction of a three storey building. This would house a cafe, gym, and community space, as well as improved changing facilities.

Local people have big dreams, as well as passion and imagination:

…versus the dream.

Although there’s still a lot of work to be done in researching feasibility and costs, not to mention the outstanding funds that need to be found, renewing Tynemouth outdoor pool is more than just a pipe dream. Lidos and outdoor pools used to be numerous, and very popular, in the United Kingdom back in the 1930s. Although many suffered the same fate as Tynemouth’s pool and fell into disrepair when people began to holiday abroad, they have enjoyed a resurgence over the last few years. Many have been regenerated due to the efforts of local people, and are proving to be increasingly popular places to spend hot summer days. Let’s hope Tynemouth will soon be added to their number.

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Writer, EFL teacher, early Gen Xer. Reader and beach walker. Now happy at home in the NE of England but plotting more travel and adventures in this second half.