Search begins for the site of a new Cork Lido

Sites on the north and south of the River Lee, including inland locations such as Tramore Valley Park, will be looked at in the search for a suitable setting for a Lido in Cork city
Search begins for the site of a new Cork Lido

Cork did have a 50m pool. Lee Baths Cork

An ambitious proposal to create a lido in Cork City will involve a trawl of potential sites over an area stretching from the bridge at the Anglers Rest Bar and Restaurant in Carrigrohane to Blackrock village.

Paul Collins, director of Malachy Walsh and Partners (MWP), said that both sides of the river will be considered for the 50m outdoor pool, as well as a number of inland sites, including Tramore Valley Park.

The firm has been commissioned to undertake a feasibility study on the prospect of a lido for the city at a time when other leading cities around the world are also striving to open their rivers to swimmers, including London, Paris, and Manhattan.

Artist's impression of a +Pool, earmarked for close to Manhattan Bridge 
Artist's impression of a +Pool, earmarked for close to Manhattan Bridge 

Mr Collins, who is project director of the study, said the survey will involve physical visits to potential sites, and not just a desktop exercise.

“We will look at it from the point of view of engineering, the environment, the cost, site location, access, and planning,” he said.

He expects the survey to take 10-12 weeks once they are given the go-ahead by Cork City Council. The council has already agreed to be lead sponsor of the study and a workshop is due to take place shortly between city officials, MWP, and Lido Cork (@LidoCork), the group spearheading the lido campaign. If the project is approved by the council, the next step would be planning, Mr Collins said.

He added that the site in question does “not necessarily” need to be adjacent to the river, but that bringing it inland to somewhere like Tramore Valley Park meant supply and treatment “would be an issue”.

Kumpula outdoor pool in Helsinki - could something similar work in Tramore Valley Park?
Kumpula outdoor pool in Helsinki - could something similar work in Tramore Valley Park?

He said that ideally it would be somewhere with pedestrian and cycling access. Asked if it would work near the new pier and plaza at Blackrock village, Mr Collins said the area might be too small — however with Tivoli Docks container traffic and other services set to relocate to Ringaskiddy, it might open up the possibility, particularly if a new pedestrian bridge connecting both banks of the river was installed, Mr Collins said.

Niall Kenny, an open water marathon swimmer and a member of the committee of seven driving the Lido Cork campaign, said their vision was for a resource that would help create a community in the city, bringing people together for outdoor leisure activities.

“There’s a need for something in the city outside of cycle lanes,” he said.

“Don’t get me wrong, I think cycle lanes are wonderful, but a lido, accessible to everyone, would help create a community based around swimming — and I know not every family member swims — so maybe there could be other activities around it too, like yoga and
pilates.”

There were good examples of expanded activities around lidos in other countries he said, for example at the Allas Seapool in Helsinki, Finland, and at the Harbor Bath in Aarhus, Denmark, where there are bars and cafés and volleyball courts, as well as a 50m pool, a diving pool, kids’ pools, and two saunas.

Allas Seapool in Helsinki
Allas Seapool in Helsinki

Floating pool complex in Aarhus, Denmark
Floating pool complex in Aarhus, Denmark

Mr Kenny said he liked the idea of Kennedy Quay as the location for a lido, as it was so close to the city centre, and also in light of O’Callaghan Properties ambitious plans for a €350m development of the southern quay, which — in the long term and subject to planning permission — will include 2,000 housing units. A lido at the quay would create a focal point as well as a leisure activity for the community living there.

Mr Kenny said other possible sites could be the Marina — currently undergoing extensive upgrades and redevelopment as part of a City Council plan, which recently saw the opening of Marina Park — or the site of the unheated and untreated former Lee Baths, which was once the main public swimming facility in the city, on the site of what is now the Kingsley Hotel.

It closed in 1986, having operated since 1934.

Lee Baths, Carrigrohane Road, Cork 1951
Lee Baths, Carrigrohane Road, Cork 1951

As sports lawyer Tim O’Connor pointed out in a recent tweet: “Lidos were one of those great 1920s/1930s ideas that fell out of favour in the 1980s and 1990s, and which we and others are only now painfully rediscovering when we’ve removed the ones we had.

“Not dissimilar to how we dealt with trams and trains, in that regard.”

Demolition of Lee Baths in 1990s
Demolition of Lee Baths in 1990s

The Lido Cork campaign has the support of Swim Ireland, swimming’s governing body.

In a statement, the director of operations, Mary McMorrow, said they were “very supportive of the campaign for a lido in Cork City”, particularly in light of the importance of outdoor recreational spaces and facilities in the current public health landscape.

“There has been a significant upsurge in interest in Open Water Swimming throughout the pandemic, a trend that is sustaining itself,” she said.

“An open-air pool is the perfect starting point for new people to start swimming in the open water, and swimming is a gateway sport for many other aquatic activities.”

She added that a lido would “enhance the economic potential of the unique maritime city that is Cork”. It would also create “enormous potential” to run large-scale events in a 50m open-air pool, Ms McMorrow said, adding that “swimming is a readily accessible sport in the context of recreation, regardless of social or economic status, and we are seeing significant demand for our outdoor programmes from people of all levels and abilities”.

While Cork City Council is helping fund the feasibility study, it was not prepared to comment further, other than to say a meeting is due to take place shortly to discuss the project.

“It’s too early to make any further comment,” said a spokesperson.

Mr Collins said the prospect of a lido for the city was “very exciting and a great idea for Cork”, but added that it was “early days”.

Campaigns for lidos are ongoing in cities around the world, including in London, where Thames Baths, a social enterprise, has been established to deliver London’s first public floating lido since 1875.

Architects Studio Octopi established Thames Baths as a vehicle to campaign for the re-introduction of swimming in the River Thames.

Artist's impression of what a lido could look like on the Thames (Thames Baths)
Artist's impression of what a lido could look like on the Thames (Thames Baths)

In Paris, a canal that feeds into the Seine acquired an outdoor pool in 2018 and has proved a huge success, drawing tens of thousands of swimmers to Bassin de la Villette. City officials have since said they expect that the Seine will accommodate open-water triathlons when the Olympic Games take place in the city in 2024.

Meanwhile in Manhattan, after years of campaigners advocating in favour of river swimming, plans are now afloat for “+ POOL”, a plus-shaped, water-
filtering, floating swimming pool, designed to filter the river that it floats in through the walls of the pool, making it possible to swim in clean river water.

Last year, city officials approved a spot for the + POOL, in the East River, just north of the Manhattan Bridge on the Lower East Side.

Those behind it have worked on the structure with engineers Arup and describe it being “like a giant strainer dropped in the river,” that “filters river water within its walls, removing bacteria, contaminants and odours, leaving only safe, swimmable water that meets local and state standards”.

Carrignavar public outdoor pool 
Carrignavar public outdoor pool 

Mr Kenny said an alternative to the +POOL concept would be to use reed beds as a natural filtration system if the lido was developed in the River Lee, where the water quality was “not as bad as it’s always being painted”, especially since the opening of a new pumping station in Cobh last year, ending the practice of raw sewage being pumped into the harbour.

If Tramore Valley Park was a viable location, the pool could be heated using an underground heat transfer pump, he said. He said the UK has half a dozen outdoor pools that are “nowhere near a river, and they work very well”.

Cork already has an outdoor heated pool in Carrignavar, one of just three public outdoor heated pools in the country, and it has proved very popular, particularly during the pandemic.

More in this section

Lunchtime
News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up
Revoiced
Newsletter

Some of the best bits from irishexaminer.com direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up
Execution Time: 0.232 s