Cleveland Pools: Carbon emissions, Challenges & Community

Submitted by georgie.murray on Wed, 15/12/2021 - 13:52

Cleveland Pools, Britain’s oldest lido, first opened in 1817 and is a stunning example of Bath’s unique, elegant charm with its honey-coloured stone walls tucked away in a hidden corner of the city offering a serene escape from the bustle of the centre. Local swimmers enjoyed the pools until they were closed in 1984. For the past 17 years, local people have campaigned to reopen the pools, first forming a charitable Trust and having the building’s historic significance recognised and successfully having its listing upgraded to Grade 2*. The group went on to raise awareness and apply for grants to be able to restore the site for all to use and enjoy once again. With restoration now nearing completion, the first swim is planned for 2022.

In 2021 Bath and North East Somerset Council was awarded £557,230 as part of the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and delivered by Salix Finance, to go towards the restoration of Cleveland Pools. This supported water source heat pumps (WSHP) which will heat the pools for swimmers. You can find out more about how different types of heat pumps work here. The carbon savings for the project are estimated to be 1,316 tonnes of CO2 over a 10 year period when compared to a gas boiler system, which would have otherwise been the heating system.

The aim of restoring Cleveland Pools to a usable space for local residents has been in the making for almost two decades. With protective regulations in place for the Grade 2* listed building, and high logistics and restoration costs, there were many hurdles to contend with. Project Director of the Cleveland Pools Trust, Anna Baker, is well aware of how ambitious the project is, “Pursuing a heating solution like this required long term vision and ambition from the Trust, and for me personally it was important to deliver something I felt proud of”, she notes, reflecting that the best solution for Bath’s residents was at the heart of the project. “So many people learned to swim here, the pools touched many lives, people had their first family outings here, early memories, even first kisses”. 

It was the wish of thousands of supporters and hundreds of local residents to bring the pools back in to use for their original purpose.  When the team at Cleveland Pools Trust looked at what they would need to do to restore the pools, they knew they required significant funding and the pool water would need to be heated. The project ignited much local excitement and the community volunteered to join efforts to bring the pools back to their original purpose.

The Trust wanted to upgrade the site using modern technologies to keep the operation as energy efficient as possible whilst retaining its authenticity. Anna says it wouldn’t have felt right to put in a gas boiler on a site aimed to promote the values of wellbeing, health and a connection with nature.

Her team sought sustainable and energy efficient measures to heat the pools alongside the building restoration works, initially winning a £6.3 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support the restoration project. During construction, 90% of equipment and materials were delivered by barge on the adjacent River Avon as there is no road access to the pools – this created its own challenges with progress impacted by changeable weather and flooding. The project team was also hit by a rise in costs during the pandemic as supply chains weakened globally and alternative suppliers and shipping routes were implemented. The rise in costs led to the team applying for the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which provides grants to public sector energy efficiency projects.

Several heritage buildings, such as the British Library and the Science and Industry Museum have also successfully received grants for their projects, Anna says, “With heritage projects, you don’t have to be scared of using innovative energy solutions, but you do have to be prepared to be ambitious and push hard”. Looking ahead to the future, the pools are set to open to the public for the first swim in 2022, with school groups able to visit and see the project once completed. During construction, several structural engineering university students have been able to visit the site to learn more about the building works. The team at Cleveland Pools Trust are keen to make sure the pools are accessible to all and are looking closely at ticket pricing and discounts, with Bath having one of the largest wealth gaps in the country, and life expectancy differing by 8 years across different areas in the city, the pools are a way to bring the area together.

Cleveland Pools have a further £400,000 to raise to complete all works ahead of opening in summer 2022 so welcome any financial support from the business community or individuals and will be launching a crowdfunding campaign in the New Year – you can sign up to receive regular newsletters and follow progress on this remarkable project at