Campaign to re-open Otley Lido takes major step forward as Sport England offers £10,000 towards restoring outdoor pool

A group of Otley residents who have been Crowdfunding to re-open the town's mothballed outdoor swimming pool have received a major financial boost.

Sport England has donated £10,000 to the Friends of Otley Lido group - who need £53,000 to progress to the next stage of their campaign.

The grant - part of the government's Activate Your Space scheme - means restoring the pool, which has been closed since a pumping system fault was idenitified in the early 1990s, is now a realistic possibility.

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The top-up contribution will be added to the pot fund if the Crowdfunder reaches its target figure by the November 1 deadline.

The outline of the pool can still be seen at the derelict Otley Lido site

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The Friends secured a further boost to their efforts with confirmation that Olympic triathlete Alistair Brownlee has backed their campaign and will make a personal appearance at the derelict site next to Wharfemeadows Park this month.

Committee member Sarah Langli said: "We are absolutely delighted - and so grateful to Sport England - to receive this pledge which recognises the value of our project to our community. We have all been working so hard behind the scenes to engage with our larger potential funding bodies - such as Sport England - and today this has paid off. We are delighted beyond words, and I shed a tear when I heard the news".

The Crowdfunder - dubbed 'now or never' - was launched three weeks ago following several attempts to generate the revenue necessary to pay for surveys and planning application work since 2016. If it fails to reach target, the Friends have agreed to discontinue the campaign and supporters who have made pledges will be reimbursed.

Friends of Otley Lido committee members

Leeds City Council still own the lido site and have agreed to offer the Friends a rent-free lease to run the pool as a Community Interest Company. A gym, restaurant and cafe would provide additional income generators for the facility, which would have a heated pool and retractable roof.

Friends chair Leonie Sharp added: “We are so grateful for Sport England recognising our project and acknowledging we can deliver their aims to improve health and wellbeing in our town and beyond. Their involvement recognises that our Lido will be a huge benefit not just to our town but for the surrounding areas too”.

“However, whilst optimistic this is a nervous time for us because we have to raise the remainder of our target before November 1. We have launched our new ‘Fill The Pool’ thermometer to demonstrate how this is achievable and are working tirelessly behind the scenes to top up the support from our local community, who have been so willing to help us. We continue as a committee to engage with potential funders to help us achieve our aims but we only have a little over two weeks remaining. We are optimistic of reaching our target given the support we have received throughout our campaign”.

To obtain Sport England's backing, the Friends had to prove that there is a local need for an outdoor pool and support for their proposals.

Otley Lido in 1960

The group's treasurer Ian Lawson said: “We are midway through our funding campaign and we must realise our aims. We know how much our community - near and far - want our lido restored but we need to be clear that unless we fund these essential studies, we cannot move the project forward. It has been a tough call for us to say to our community it is ‘all or nothing’ but we also say, ‘If not now, then when?’

“Now is the time to bring our project to fruition given the importance of healthy and active lifestyles, providing a local hub for our community, improving the town’s economy through tourism, boosting local employment and well-being, and bringing sustainable facilities to level up our town.

“Once we have this stage completed, we can then go to the larger funding bodies to seek the funds we need to build our Lido - for our community and by our community”.

Members of the public can pledge to the Crowdfunder campaign at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/otley-lido