How Covid-19 could sink the UK's outdoor swimming pools

October 2020

‘On A Knife Edge’: Why Half Of All Lidos Didn’t Reopen After Lockdown And How It Could Have A Knock-On Effect For Next Year

As school children across the UK return to school this week, it should have been the end of good season for Britain’s outdoor pools. After lockdown restrictions eased for lidos on July 11, the months that followed brought soaring temperatures of above thirty degrees. However, my new research has found that more than half didn’t and won’t re-open at all this year. Once you exclude London, this figure rises to almost 60 percent of all outdoor pools and lidos. For some, it’s the first time they’ve shut in their fifty year histories.

Pools I’ve spoken to across the country say it’s an industry already on a “knife edge”, with many pools only continuing to run thanks to the efforts of volunteers and forced to fundraise for even the most basic costs like lockers. They tell me that the easing of lockdown came as “too little too late”, leaving it both financially and practically unviable to reopen this year, with many also uncertain about how they’ll continue to operate next year, especially without the vital influx of cash from this year’s season. In short, this could have a devastating effect on the UK’s outdoor pools for years’ to come.

As well as my own original data investigations into the pools that have and have not reopened, I’ve spoken to a number of lidos who made the decision to close their doors. Additionally, I’m looking to set up interviews with both a Lido that has reopened this year to talk about their experience, a campaign for a lido to re-open and a sector expert, to provide a wider feature looking at the delicate ecosystem these pools operate in, and how the current pandemic could have perilously tipped the balance of the delicate ecosystem they exist in.