23/00479/FUL & 23/00479/LBC Sandford Lido, Keynsham Road, Cheltenham, GL53 7PU
Councillor Barnes took the Chair.
The case officer introduced the report as set out in the papers, pointing out to Members that although the Conservation Officer had some concerns and considered the solar panels would be an intrusive feature, this is regarded as ‘less than substantial’ harm which, under NPPF guidelines, must be weighed against any public benefit of the proposal. Officers consider the extensive benefits outweigh any harm, and planning and listed building consent is therefore recommended, with standard conditions.
Applicant, in support
As CEO of the Lido, the speaker said that she and 12 voluntary trustees took over responsibility for the Lido 27 years ago, and have to date invested £3m, diligently balancing heritage with the need for modern technologies. Many swimming pools are facing closure, largely due to unmanageable energy costs, and in 2022 the trustees undertook a full-site sustainability audit, the findings of which must now be applied to avoid the Lido becoming financially unsustainable. Some energy-saving findings have been introduced, and the next priority is to install solar panels to capture renewable energy, prior to an increase from 14p to 49p when the electricity contract is renewed later in the year. The original engineering has been protected and refurbished, and is regarded as nationally important, and the panels will help to power the pumps and motors.
The trustees are determined that the Lido will remain viable, by managing operational costs and maximising income; decarbonisng the facility and reducing the energy bought it will help it remain affordable, honouring the Mayor of Cheltenham’s pledge when opening the Lido in 1935. The Lido community is passionate about its survival and it is at the heart of many lives: it provides a heated season for 28 weeks a year, welcomes 200k visitors and 20 sporting and social events a year, and supports seven sports clubs and eight other charities, as well as offering cold water swimming during winter. Like everyone, it has a role to play in reducing the carbon footprint of the town, and granting permission today will allow it to proceed on its sustainability journey.
Councillor Baker, in support
As a trustee of the Lido, Councillor Baker said he had absolute respect for the comments of the Conservation Officer, who does an excellent job protecting Cheltenham’s wonderful heritage, and the views of the Civic Society, whose views are always informed and helpful. However, he felt that we are entering new era of ‘pragmatic planning’, where we have no choice but to listen to and understand the consequences of the climate emergency and do our best to address those consequences. The appalling increase in energy bills is impacting all sectors of economy, particularly owners of domestic and commercial heritage properties, and to ensure their ongoing viability, we must work with them to help them reduce their carbon footprint and consumption of fossil fuels.
Great weight must be placed on the appearance and historic importance of buildings, and the Lido is a much-loved, iconic facility, far more than just a swimming pool. The trustees absolutely recognise the onerous responsibility of preserving and enhancing its heritage and ensuring that it stays open, but the reality is that increased energy bills will severely impact the viability of business, and there is no question of CBC coming to the rescue. Urgent action is required, and although the trustees would have preferred to present a more comprehensive set of proposals all at same time, if this first phase is permitted and can be implemented today, energy bills can begin to be addressed, and the carbon footprint begin to be reduced.
In an ideal world, Councillor Baker said he wouldn’t support the application, but in the real world, he has to be carefully pragmatic. There is no local opposition to the proposal, but significant public support. As a trustee, and passionate about supporting Cheltenham’s heritage and viability, he is fully supportive of the application and also excited by the trustees’ vision and plans to ensure survival of this wonderful facility and significantly reduce its huge carbon footprint.
After speaking, Councillor Baker left the Chamber for the remainder of the meeting.
In response to a Member’s question, the case officer said that she didn’t know what percentage of the whole energy bill would be reduced with the introduction of solar panels. She understand they would contribute to energy savings, but specific data and breakdown of costs was not required as part of the planning application.
In debate, Members made the following points:
- this proposal was, at least, a start, although the biggest energy bill at the Lido was likely to be for gas to heat the large volumes of water;
- more could be done, such as air source or ground source heat pumps in the council-owned park next door. If the boiler is a heritage asset, it belongs in a museum;
- CBC needs to step up, not just supporting this and other wonderful heritage assets in the town morally and with kind words, but also financially;
- thanks to the CEO of the Lido for her relevant and succinct comments; it will be good to see what else is planned to ensure the Lido remains sustainable, but with such strong leadership, great things will happen;
- many Members are realising that, while not ignoring the importance of heritage assets, listed buildings and conservation areas, a re-think is needed and more weight given to renewable energy;
- the proposal fits with the council’s policy on climate change.
Vote on officer recommendation to permit/grant
- 23-00479FUL 23-00479LBC- Report, item 8. PDF 311 KB
- Representations 23 00479FUL, item 8. PDF 61 KB
- Representations 23 00479LBC, item 8. PDF 84 KB
- 23 00479 FUL 23 00479 LBC, item 8. PDF 4 MB