Ilford lido plans approved

Plans for a new lido in Ilford’s Valentine’s Park, with a heated outdoor pool and cafe, have been officially approved.

Ten councillors from Redbridge Council’s planning committee greenlit the scheme at a meeting on June 5, after months of preparation.

Council leader Jas Athwal had previously hoped it would be open by this summer, but the authority is now eyeing autumn 2025 for its grand opening.

Alongside the six-lane pool, the Valentines Park lido will also include a children’s splash pad, a dance studio and a gym, not far from the site of the original pool open between 1923 and 1995.

There will be 21 car parking spaces – one for disabled visitors – as well as 40 for cyclists.

Councillor Gurdial Bhamra said it was a “necessary” addition to the borough, while former mayor Jyotsna Islam said it would be “excellent” for swimmers and children in the absence of any alternative leisure centres nearby.

Saira Jimal, a member for Cranbrook, said it was a “great idea” but stressed that antisocial behaviour was a “big concern” and could happen “any time, anywhere”.

Councillor Joel Herga abstained from the vote, after expressing concern over the environmental costs of heating the pool all year round. He also lamented approving the decision when Redbridge is in debt, but was told this was not a “material consideration”.

The entrance fee is likewise not a  consideration for the committee, but the meeting heard the lido would be similarly priced to other leisure centres in the borough.

It is part of a £11million investment by Redbridge into leisure provision in the borough. Cllr Athwal told the Evening Standard last year it would cost no more than £4m, but no specific amount has been attached.

Specific funding has not yet been approved either, aside from the £1.07m allocated in the capital programme – spanning 2023 through 2026 – in the 2024/25 budget.

The capital programme includes a corporate leisure infrastructure budget, which is the most likely source of funding. However, its use will need to be approved by councillors beforehand.

During a 22-day consultation in April, a total of eight residents objected to the scheme. They argued building on green space used for “walking and observing nature’” was unacceptable, and that English weather tended to be unsuitable for an outdoor swimming pool.

However, the council argued the site – which is occupied by basketball courts and bin stores – was “underutilised” and that the “diverse range” of new facilities would improve residents’ lives.

Critics also focused on increases in traffic potentially causing congestion and the loss of mature trees and Valentine’s Park’s “tranquil atmosphere”.

The council will also plant an increased number of trees around the site. It aims for the lido to be environmentally sustainable, with the installation of rooftop solar panels and water recycling systems.

After the lido was approved, Mark Baigent, the council’s corporate director of regeneration and culture, said: “The old lido in Valentines Park holds a special place in the hearts of local people.

“It is where families enjoyed idyllic summer days right on their doorsteps and it is so exciting that after nearly 30 years, a brand new lido and more will be introduced in the park for people to visit and create new special memories.

“As a council, we will continue to invest in leisure facilities so local families and visitors can access everything they need right on our doorstep.”

Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter