Brynaman Lido Committee: Report on Research trip to Buckfastleigh Lido
This was a great trip for us. As well as being an opportunity to see a lido in action, meet and question the staff and management, it was a good experience for members of the committee to get their heads together and focus on the future of our lido.
We have come away with lots of information and there are lots more questions that we will want to ask of Buckfastleigh, of other lidos and of ourselves.
The popularity of outdoor swimming has led to a resurgence in lidos in the UK. Requirements of a modern society and developments in technology for operating and heating open air pools means that it is a very different landscape that we are looking at when researching the variety of possibilities for managing Brynaman Lido when it reopens. Whilst there is a lot of information available online and from companies who provide the various methods of operation, we felt it would be helpful to see an outdoor pool in action and talk to the people who manage it face to face.
We researched a number of lidos that we believe have similar operational and management arrangements to Brynaman. Of those, we felt that the contact and support that we had received from Pam Barrett, Director of Buckfastleigh Open Air Swimming Pool, would be most useful. Whilst it is a much smaller pool, its position in the local community is very similar to that of Brynaman Lido.
Like Brynaman, the local authority Teignbridge DC, had been running the pool as part of its leisure provision and had proposed to close it. After some serious negotiation and lobbying, Pam Barrett and her team were able to show that there was good reason for them to pass over the reins to the local community. Further information about the background and running of the pool is available: http://www.buckfastleighpool.co.uk/
The pool has been open every year since 2015, with regular hours from May to September also opening intermittently for special events such as Easter and Boxing Day.
- Manager and Staffing
Ian Savage is the manager for Buckfastleigh Open Air Pool. That includes the management, operational and staffing of the pool itself plus the playground that lies adjacent to it. Prior to being employed by the Trust Ian was part of the team that managed the sports facilities and pools at Teignbridge Council. He had already worked as a manager at Buckfastleigh employed by them so knew a lot about the pool.
Ian has a permanent employment contract with the Trust for 1400 hours per year. During the summer months the workload is intense and generally involves 4 X 10 hour days per week. He is able to spread the rest of his hours to carry out essential administration, health & safety and operational issues when the pool is less busy. He is also able to take on other work when the pool is closed.
2 lifeguards who are also qualified as supervisors are employed on seasonal contracts which run from May to September.
They have a fail-safe structure as one of the lifeguards is a qualified level 2 manager and they also have level 3 supporters amongst the 7 volunteer lifeguards who can all supervise should anyone fall ill or have to deal with something that takes the manager away from the pool. The manager is also responsible for training lifeguards. The pool makes some extra income by training lifeguards from other organisations.
Volunteers are paid with free swims, e.g. for a receptionist 1 shift = 1 swim. They have a volunteer who manages the volunteer rotas.
Health & Safety training for all staff is incredibly important. If we are planning to keep the pool open when it’s not heated, we should have staff trained in cold water shock.
- Current timetable and pricing
The timetable and pricing are calculated in response to the needs of the local community. To make the pool as accessible as possible to the less well-off residents the Trust raises funds for subsidised and free swims that they can allocate in response to need.
The pool is cleaned by filters that are situated in a pump house at the far corner of the pool. It is dosed with chlorine with a self-dosing automated system, although they still test the water every 2 hours to make sure all is working OK.
It is heated by 2 gas boilers (recently replaced at a cost of £10k). To get the pool from its May temperature unheated of 14 degrees up to 28 degrees takes around 4 days. They have a good quality pool cover which helps to retain the heat and is put over the pool outside swim times.
They backwash the pool and top up once a week. They use E Plus to check the water quality http://www.eplusglobal.co.uk/
- Organisational Management
The team who runs the pool set up a company limited by guarantee to act as the corporate entity for management purposes. This doesn’t trade and submits nil activity in its accounts each year. The trading is all done through the Trust, a separate charity which trades and provides accounts of all the income and expenditure for the pool.
Buckfastleigh is lucky in that Pam Barrett is also the Mayor and a member of the Town Council. The pool is included in their neighbourhood plan. Her way of developing the lido is to make it better than it needs to be, e.g. they provide better than just the basic service. It is viewed as a local regeneration project that will not only service the local community but also provide a stream of visitors and footfall to the town.
Whilst Buckfastliegh is in a relatively well-heeled area, the town itself is in a pocket of poverty with high depravation stats. The ethos of the management is to provide opportunities of training and employment for young people in the town. They also raise additional funds to provide free swimming to less well-off people and their families. They have a strong relationship with other organisations in the town that support young people and have a very positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the area.
They receive £20k subsidy from Buckfastleigh Town Council. This was achieved by increasing the local tax levy to provide for the pool and other local amenities that were deemed important to the community.
Key points to remember:
- Membership schemes often subsidise people who can already afford to pay – it is important to make the facility available for the whole community.
- A contract for staff can be for a set amount of flexible hours over a year or seasonal
- Keep going and don’t believe everything people say – they often aren’t experts and have less knowledge than you do.
- Explore all the legal options for taking over the lido
- Special events and services are often more lucrative than regular swimming, e.g. Night Swims, Early morning swims, classes and aqua therapy.