Developers of the Saltdean lido in Brighton should perhaps take a leaf from the book of Paris’ newly reopened Piscine Molitor. Both are terrific examples of open air, art deco swimming pools – but only one is open to the public. The other remains firmly shut.
In their heydays, both were places for local fashionistas to be seen.
Piscine Molitor opened to great fanfare in 1929 and is the grander of the two. It had two pools: the first was a 50-metre lido surrounded by three tiers of changing rooms, while the second was a smaller, indoor pool. Saltdean’s pool opened a decade later, with a tea terrace and sun deck.
“Piscine Molitor was bricked up for over 20 years and became an eyesore for its neighbours in the 16th arrondissement”
However, both have been derelict for some time.
Piscine Molitor closed in 1989 and was bricked up for over 20 years. It became a magnet for anti-social behaviour, squatters and graffiti – and an eyesore for its neighbours in the upmarket 16th arrondissement.
Saltdean lido closed in 2010 and, so far, has not suffered anything like the damage at Molitor.
Restoration work has yet to begin in Saltdean, though a community interest company has bought the site. The company estimates that £10 million will be needed to bring the site back to its former glory – eight times less than the cost of refurbishing the Parisian pools.
The Piscine Molitor has recently reopened as a five-star hotel, with several restaurants run by Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno. There are also a couple of bars and a Clarins beauty spa.
I doubt Saltdean lido will attempt anything quite so classy. Mind you, Piscine Molitor was in such a sorry state that it had to be demolished and rebuilt – only its façade is original.
Fortunately, Saltdean, on the other hand, doesn’t need the same kind of extreme makeover.