Iconic Welsh Lido Ponty pool restored and reopened

Built in 1927, Lido Ponty, an outdoor swimming pool in Pontypridd, South Wales, and one of the last surviving facilities of its kind in the country, had fallen into disrepair by the 1980s, resulting in its closure in 1991. Its restoration, completed in 2015, thanks to an EU-funded regeneration project, balances conservation of the existing Art Deco building with the addition of modern elements like a café, poolside terrace, visitor centre, multipurpose venue and dry play area.

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Lido Ponty, Pontypridd © Robyn Drayton/Creative Commons Lido Ponty, Pontypridd © Robyn Drayton/Creative Commons

" The restoration of the derelict listed 1920s lido has been an exemplar case of preserving a building's and region's heritage whilst maximising its contribution to the local economy and community. Not only has this historic asset, which is steeped in significant national social history, been safeguarded, the project has also increased the viability of the regionally important historic park in which it is situated. "

Kerry Vicker, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council

The Lido was remodelled to form three new pools and a varied swimming programme put in place to attract visitors. Traditional building techniques and the same materials used in the original structure were chosen where possible. Environmental sustainability was promoted with the incorporation of rooftop solar panels and bat-roosting holes.

Today, Lido Ponty is a unique attraction which creates job, training and volunteering opportunities, stimulates investment and the local economy, and improves residents’ wellbeing.

A vibrant space

While derelict, Lido Ponty was a blight on Pontypridd’s Ynysangharad War Memorial Park, where it is situated. The centrally located park had become synonymous with antisocial behaviour, but the creation of an aesthetically pleasing leisure complex has transformed it into a vibrant green space.

During the development stage, a review of lidos throughout the UK demonstrated that such facilities can operate successfully. Public events and 10 consultation exercises involving more than 1 200 individuals helped gather community feedback.

Based on an ethos of repair, not replacement, the project harnessed the heritage potential of a dilapidated but iconic 1920s building to create a facility fit for the 21st century. Ninety-year-old timber cubicles were removed and repaired, and made wider to allow wheelchair access. Traditional methods such as lime plastering were used and roof tiles were sourced from the same French company that made the originals. New elements were designed in an Art Deco style, with features like handrails mirroring the details of the 1927 building.

Innovative technologies installed include a chemical pool cover to retain heat, a pool pod allowing people with reduced mobility to enter the water unaided and interactive multimedia displays in the visitor centre. Virtual tours of the lido are available via the venue’s website.

Jobs and training

A total of 17 full-time equivalent positions were created at Lido Ponty and construction-related activities provided 38 jobs during the building phase. In 2016, the lido generated some EUR 920 000 of expenditure in the area and 76 % of the construction spend went to suppliers in South East Wales. Learning activities at Lido Ponty, largely for secondary school pupils and other young people, have covered subjects such as the history of the lido, heritage skills and lifeguard training.

Since the facility reopened in August 2015, 175 000 visits have been recorded, with almost 75 000 in 2016 alone, far exceeding the annual target of 30 000. Visits to the play area are estimated at over 200 000 a year. Online reviews show that 71 % of users rate the lido as ‘excellent’ and 23 % as ‘very good’. Admission charges and activity sessions are the main revenue sources, while private hire, and café, renewable energy and merchandise income help ensure long-term viability.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Regeneration of Pontypridd Lido” is EUR 7 713 765, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 4 050 000 through the “West Wales and the Valleys” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period. The investment falls under the priority “Building sustainable communities”.

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