Transforming Jubilee Pool

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Jubilee Pool in Penzance was opened in 1935 at a time when Art Deco outdoor lidos were most fashionable, and has been a regional landmark ever since. It is the largest of only five surviving seawater lidos in the UK, Grade II listed, and sits in a commanding position with views across Mounts Bay to St Michaels Mount. It is considered by many to be the finest example of a surviving pre-war lido in the world. It has an open air sea water swimming pool, surrounded by a promenade incorporating seating areas and changing cubicles.

In February 2014, severe storms hit Cornwall which, amongst other things, forced the closure of the main rail line running from London Paddington to Devon and Cornwall for several months. Jubilee Pool suffered serious structural damage at this time, but re-opened in 2016 after nearly £3 million was raised. At this point, however, it became clear that developing a financially sustainable future was essential. Sustainability had long been an issue and for decades the pool had been supported by significant public subsidies. 

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In 2016 The Friends of Jubilee Pool formed a new Community Benefit Society called Jubilee Pool Penzance Ltd, and secured a 99-year lease from Cornwall Council. They have since raised over £500k through a community share offer, towards a £1.8m project to improve the facility and create an all year round attraction.

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) has offered a loan of £850,000 to Jubilee Pool Penzance Ltd that will support a capital investment to upgrade facilities by creating a unified ‘hospitality zone’ along the pool’s top terrace comprising a café, reception area, retail and community/event space. This proposal represents the largest individual new facility we have ever considered, demonstrating our commitment to the widespread social and community outcomes that will derive from the work to improve a landmark historic building. 

A separate project led by Cornwall Council, working in partnership with the Pool and Geothermal Engineering Limited (GEL), has drilled a geothermal well to provide heated seawater to a section of the main pool. This EU funded project will allow part of it to become a year-round, geothermally-heated area which will act as the catalyst to boost financial sustainability, delivered in an environmentally friendly way.  Several recent news reports have shown that Cornwall has particularly favourable geology to provide significant opportunities for renewable heat and power generation.

The business will therefore be able to move to a year-round operation, significantly boosting visitor numbers, creating 18 new full or part time posts, in an area of the UK that has severe issues of social deprivation; all six of Penzance’s wards sit within the 20% most deprived in England.

Jubilee Pool already offers a discount to local people; this will continue, together with several weekly sessions providing free leisure access to the hot water zone, with priority being given to those from Penzance’s most deprived neighbourhoods. Health and well-being sessions will be targeted at those most in need and who will benefit from access. This will include people with mobility constraints, dementia sufferers, people living with poor mental health, with substance abuse problems, or at high risk of social isolation or exclusion, arthritis and chronic rheumatism sufferers, people recovering from accident or injury, and stroke survivors.

Commenting on the investment, Matthew McKeague, CEO of the AHF said:

“This is one of the most significant and biggest investments the AHF has ever made, to a project that demonstrates the transformative effect heritage assets can have on communities. We have been hugely impressed by the scale of community support, including the response to the community share issue and drive to take it into local ownership. This is a vital community as well as historic asset for the town, one that supports the wider economic prosperity of Penzance - we are looking forward to supporting the team over the next few years and helping ensure the long term success of Jubilee Pool.”

Find out more about the pool here.

Editor’s notes

1)  The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. We are the leading heritage social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK. We provide advice, development grants and loans.

2)  For media enquiries please contact Oliver Brodrick Ward, on 020 79250199 / oliver.brodrick-ward@ahfund.org.uk