Friends of Tynemouth Outdoor Pool: making a splash!
Members Projects in the Spotlight
Friends of Tynemouth Outdoor Pool
Friends of Tynemouth Outdoor Pool was formed as a community group in 2012 in response to North Tyneside Council’s plans to fully concrete over what remained of the original 1920s pool. After running a successful social media campaign lobbying the council to drop their plans, they formed a limited company. With pro-bono support, both nationally and internationally, the Friends completed the design and planning stage of an alternative proposal, and in 2013 they were invited to work exclusively with the council to develop these plans. Ten years on, in July 2023, the council indicated it was minded to grant the application and authorise the Director of Regeneration and Economic Development approve planning permission, on condition the Friends resolve a number of issues they had identified.
Tynemouth Outdoor Pool was a tidal salt water pool with waves breaking over the rocks into the lido at high tide. The ambitious project to carve the site out of the rock face began in 1923, taking two years to complete due to its challenging location. During the Victorian and Edwardian era, Tynemouth was a popular seaside destination for people working in the region’s many industrial towns. The addition of a lido would have provided a welcome safe space to enjoy the health benefits of outdoor bathing, swimming and socialising.
Around the 1960s, outdoor pool policies began to change and maintaining them became a financial burden, causing many to close. Tynemouth Outdoor Pool was no different. By the 1990s it had fallen into a state of disrepair, and the council bulldozed the auxiliary buildings into the pool, filling it with concrete and boulders to form an artificial rock pool. The marine life they had introduced never flourished, and many felt the site was an eyesore.
By the 1990s it had fallen into a state of disrepair, and the council bulldozed the auxiliary buildings into the pool, filling it with concrete and boulders to form an artificial rock pool. The marine life they had introduced never flourished, and many felt the site was an eyesore.
Over the last 11 years, following guidance from organisations including Natural England, the Friends have carried out biodiversity, flood risk and ecological assessments, and bird surveys. As these capture a short moment in time, many studies have had to be repeated as various obstacles have slowed the progress of the projects.
Tynemouth community’s support has been crucial to the group’s success. The group collected memories and photos of the pool, gaining a deeper understanding of its history and using them in lobbying campaigns. Local artists have donated designs
for merchandise available on Tynemouth Outdoor Pools website, and Tynemouth Coffee Company has a special roast raising funds for the Friends. Even local celebrity Sting has made a personal donation! In fact, when their latest plans went to the committee, support from the community almost broke the council’s website. These comments and other engagements on social media are being systematically analysed to help policy makers understand the pool’s importance to its community.
Even local celebrity Sting has made a personal donation! In fact, when their latest plans went to the committee, support from the community almost broke the council’s website.
The Friends are keen to get their plans right first time, so research has been conducted into lidos in the UK and abroad to understand different business models and what could work for Tynemouth. This led to the recent public message of support from Paula Masselos, Mayor of Waverly Council in Australia, home to Bondi Beach, highlighting the benefits of their ocean pools.
Currently, plans include a 25-meter heated, filtered and chlorinated pool, with eight lanes and waves crashing in. As expected, there will be toilets, changing rooms and a café housed in a new clubhouse. The possibility of a larger building has been explored, but recent economic conditions now makes this unlikely.
The project will cost around £10 million. To satisfy the council and secure full planning consent, the Friends commissioned a new round of environmental surveys and assessments. Conversations can then start with potential funders but until that point, the pool’s future is uncertain.
If all goes to plan, construction will start in 2025. In line with Natural England guidelines, coastal building at this site can only happen between April and September, leaving a small window of build time each year. This first phase will get the pool operational. Launch events, general activities, membership, and merchandise will be in place before opening to ensure the pool generates an income from the start. Who will manage the pool at this point is unclear; it could be the council, the Friends, or a separate company.
The Friends hope to use the Ninety Fathom Fault running near Newcastle to geothermally heat the pool to limit the environmental impact, giving them the potential to use the site as an educational living laboratory. However, with a £1 million price tag, it will only be possible with enough funding.
Michael Wood, Senior Lecturer in Sports Management and Friend of Tynemouth Outdoor Pool, is one of the leading lido experts in the country and one of the founders of Future Lidos. Future Lidos is an informal network of community-led projects and campaigns around the UK and Ireland dedicated to reviving outdoor pool swimming in our country. They meet regularly to discuss projects.
In 2023 Future Lidos received funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for its Pooling Resources project. The project brings together expertise from across the network to create a digital Lido Toolkit, raising awareness of lidos’ unique role and supporting the network. This will provide resources and support to other projects restoring heritage pools across the country.