People power helped Jubilee Pool weather the storm

Sport and Leisure
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On Valentine’s Day 2014, the Cornish coastal town of Penzance was hit by a ferocious storm. 18-metre-high waves crashed over its harbour wall and smashed into the historic Jubilee Pool, the town’s iconic 1930s sea water lido. The damage was devasting. 

The pool suffered nearly £1 million worth of damage, with vast pieces of its concreate structure destroyed. The winter storm also uncovered serious structural defects and the repair bill came in at a staggering £3 million. Cornwall Council, which owned the lido were unsure whether it could realistically afford to keep the lido open. 

“I cried. The day after the storm was just one of those amazing clear still winter’s days. And it was just devastation. ”

Local Penzance resident Susan Stuart remembers the despair she and the community as whole felt at the potential loss of the pool, which had been a popular local landmark since it opened its doors in 1935.

Susan felt compelled to help save the pool. “I thought, “I can play a role here”. I and friends of mine, who were in the Friends [of Jubilee Pool], realised we just had to get on with it and save the pool.”

The community stepped up, raising a staggering £120,000. £2million was provided by the Coastal Community Fund and the local authority were persuaded to invest and enabled the community to take over the running of the facility.

The pool reopened in May 2016. Local resident and keen swimmer, Ann Grice, was overjoyed: “It was absolutely marvellous…we were all so thrilled to have it back again.”

Jubilee Pool was open once again, but it wasn’t the end of the story. The community recognised it needed a long-term solution to ensure the pool was sustainable. Open to the public just 16 weeks a year, once maintenance and running costs were paid, the pool was losing money. 

Susan and the Friends knew it would be a challenge: “How do you make a cold-water swim popular in winter? Not very easily.”

The answer – create the UK’s the first natural salt water geothermal pool, heated by its very own geothermal well. But in Summer 2020, the vision was realised when the new Jubilee Pool opened its doors to the public. 

The success of the project rests with the backing of the Penzance community, who financially got behind the project. The Friends raised a community share offer and it now has 1,400 shareholders, 970 of those live in Cornwall. Nearly £540,000 of the £1.8 million funding came from the public share offer. The remainder of the funding came through a mix of loans and grants from Power to Change, The Architectural Heritage Fund and the Co-operative Community Investment Fund. 

Jubilee Pool reopened last summer, a very challenging year given the impacts of Covid-19. But the pool’s galvanising effect has been a positive focus for the community dealing with the pandemic. 

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