Councillors urged to replace or revamp ‘Soviet-era’ swimming pool

A mum of two has described Brighton and Hove’s rundown public swimming pools as “Soviet-era” and wants to see improvements.

Nicole Anderson and sons

Nicole Anderson, who swims weekly at the King Alfred and the Prince Regent, wants Brighton and Hove City Council to revamp the Hove site because the pool is cold and falling apart.

She plans to ask councillors to redevelop the King Alfred as it is “at the end of its lifespan and not fit for purpose anymore” at a meeting on Thursday (3 February).

Mrs Anderson, whose family are from Germany, said that the swimming facilities in Germany were always modern and clean.

A German friend told her when she first saw the King Alfred that she cried – and Mrs Anderson said: “Not even in the poorest town would you find something like that.

“In Germany, it’s just normal to have really modern clean and good swimming facilities. Not just tourism but stuff for the local residents.

“The King Alfred looks like it belongs in the Soviet era from the outside and inside. The only reason I go there is for my kids. I shouldn’t have to drive to Burgess Hill for the Triangle.”

An incident at the pool prompted her to ask the question. After leaving the King Alfred with her sons aged eight and nine, they saw a man shouting angrily about the pool.

The man was shouting that it had been falling apart for 20 years – and now she wants to know whether there are plans to revamp or upgrade it.

As an avid swimmer, Mrs Anderson was concerned to read a report from Swim England last year that found 40 per cent of the country’s swimming facilities were under threat.

She would like to see something in Brighton and Hove that would work as a tourist attraction similar to the proposed Therme Manchester or Tropical Islands near Berlin, with its indoor beaches.

Mrs Anderson said: “Why not build a tourism attraction we can use all year round. Manchester is getting this most amazing swimming facility that will bring in the income all year round.

“It doesn’t matter what the weather is. Let’s face it, the weather here isn’t great even in the summer.”

King Alfred Leisure Centre – Picture courtesy of Wikiwand

Various ideas to improve the King Alfred have come and gone for generations. The most recent scheme collapsed in October 2019, when Crest Nicholson pulled out of a £228 million project with the Starr Trust.

The council spent years working with Crest Nicholson and the Starr Trust on plans to build homes and a new leisure centre at the site in Kingsway.

In October 2019, former council leader Nancy Platts said that a cross-party project board would explore plans for new leisure facilities.

Last July, the council published its Sports Facilities Investment Plan 2021-31, recommended the “creation of three large multi-sports hub facilities to serve the city”. They included a 25-metre eight-lane pool to replace the King Alfred.

Mrs Anderson’s question goes before councillors at a “virtual public engagement” session which is due to start at 4.30pm on Thursday. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.

  1. Richard Pingle Reply

    Any attempt to replace the King Alfred will be met with the same barrage of resistance from the same group of NIMBY types and a few predicable others that haunt any ambitious planning application.

    It’s not that long since another plan to replace the King Alfred with an imaginative development designed by a world class architect, Frank Gehry, eventually collapsed after been dogged and delayed for years. It’s anyone’s guess how much that entire fiasco cost the developers.

    • saveHOVE Reply

      The Gehry Karis project was less than you know. The plans showed 2 cross shaped (cruciform) concrete towers covered in crumpled sheets of aluminium with window shapes cut out. The method of attachment was not provided.

      Not a nice prospect to have wind-rattling aluminium ‘rain screens’ outside one’s balcony is it?

      The Starr Trust/Crest project had a LOT of plastic everywhere in the Sports centre design. Just a couple of the issues…

      The new sustainability/green imperatives need to be incorporated into policy docs for next time

      • Al Reply

        It would help if SaveHove only contributed silence to the next time someone wants to rebuild the King Alfred. As the self-serving reactionary counterpart to Brighton’s Regency Society, SaveHove are worse than NIMBYs – they are BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything).

  2. Robin Hislop Reply

    Agreed, the swimming facilities in Brighton are an embarrassment.

    The King Alfred redevelopment schemes keep falling apart because the council seems set on getting private money to pay for it, which basically means giving developers free reign for a massive overdevelopment on publicly owned land in exchange for a leisure centre which is smaller than the one we have now.

    Why can’t the council just borrow the money and build it themselves, without giving away public space? There is so much development happening all over the city – all of these should be bringing in section 106 levies to upgrade the infrastructure for the new residents. Where are these being spent?

    • Al Reply

      If yo knew the answer to that, you’d be embarrassed to ask the question in the first place.

      The council can’t build it themselves because they’re not allowed to. That’s what happens when you vote for a Tory government, and they invoke their rules on public spending.

  3. Jon Reply

    Seem to be stuck on the option off getting developers to pay for a public pool. Which means years of negotiations and if they’re ever successful years of closure & construction.
    The Frank Gehry scheme seemed to be a sort of Trumpian licensing thing where he never visits the site but does a quick sketch and everyone pretends that it’s not just an ugly overdeveloped tower blocks with a pool.

    • Richard Pingle Reply

      As a matter of fact Gehry DID visit the site. Search for ‘The man who kidnapped Frank Gehry’.

  4. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    This has been going on since 1969, when Hove Borough Council bought the scrub land to the west from the Navy for £70,000. The lesson is that it is a small site; it cannot take everything that has been proposed to pile in there, especially with “developers” involved. Neanwhile, it remains a mysters that Gehry’s four towers were reduced to two and the whole thing was to be blocked in by a lower, encircling bunker by Gough, which brought further problems for it all. The best moment in all that was when a Councillor asked Gehry what he would make of residents stringing clothes lines between the blocks. Something he had never been asked before (and since, I should think).

  5. Nige Reply

    Another example of our bizarre planning and development system. The council want the private sector to develop the site. The developers want to overdevelop the site, much to the irritation of residents and the council themselves. Therefore nothing ever happens. Repeat ad infinitum.

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