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Beard begin restoration work of UK’s oldest lido

Work has started to restore the historic pools in Bath, following a 17-year community campaign to save the Grade II* listed site.

Bristol-based Beard is leading the work on the restoration of Cleveland Pools, the oldest surviving outdoor public swimming pool in the UK, which was built in 1815 and is now regarded as a nationally significant site.

The project has the support of hundreds of people in Bath, many of whom have recorded their happy memories of summers spent poolside, of learning to swim, early romance and just how cold the water was.

However, the £6.2 million project poses some significant engineering challenges for Beard, which will bring its extensive experience in the heritage sector to the development, as the site is only accessible for vehicles by river.

Machinery, building materials and equipment required to carry out the major refurbishment work on-site will have to be loaded up at the nearby Avon Rugby Club, which is being used as a base, and carried up-river on a pontoon pushed by a barge fitted out for the purpose.

“After 17 years of community action, starting construction work is a hugely significant moment which we’re all so happy to see,” said Anna Baker, Project Director, Cleveland Pools Trust.

“We’ve had fantastic support to get us this far, particularly from our main funder, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, but still have some way to go with £400,000 still to raise. We are looking forward now to seeing the restoration take shape, to be complete by summer 2022, when the community that enjoyed the benefits of this wonderful facility in the past, will be able to once again. Beard has brought a great deal of expertise to the project and a real appreciation of what the facility will be used for once it’s complete, which is very important for us in a construction partner.”

Mark Tregelles, Project Manager, Beard, said: “We recognise how culturally significant this development is for the community, and wider region, not only as a Grade II* listed building but also as a space for the community to use and enjoy when it’s complete. We are working closely with the Cleveland Pools Trust to realise their vision to make it an accessible and fun place to be for all users, and also to reflect the rich history behind the nationally important site.

“But it is certainly a different prospect for Beard as we’ve had to do a lot of work in preparation to establish a base down river at Avon Rugby Club, which we will use as a loading site to get everything we need onto the barge and sailed up to the site. There can’t be many building projects today which require access by boat. So, we’re pleased to be starting after months of planning, and to draw on years of experience working on culturally important buildings to ensure delivery on time for the community.”

The project was set to start in March last year when the pandemic struck and led to delays and increased costs. In recent months, the Pools has enjoyed exceptional national support with additional funding being provided by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the DCMS Capital Kickstart Fund, and emergency grant aid from Historic England.

The project includes a community engagement and volunteering programme with dedicated resources to deliver the Activity Plan, which aims to engage a wide and diverse section of the local community in meaningful projects. So far this has included delivering a tailored employability programme to give students the experience of working on a real project, running intergenerational activities about the history of the pools and engaging volunteers to create a walking trail to site as part of the green travel plan.

The overall project costs for the period 2019 to 2025 are now just over the £8 million mark with the Trust needing to raise a further £400,000 over the next 18 months to deliver all outcomes.