‘Year-round’ Charlton Lido to close for winter

Charlton Lido, 9 August

Lower-than-expected take-up of membership means Charlton Lido will close for the winter on Sunday November 3rd. In an email to Better Swim members, GLL explains that to-date it only has 144 members, where the equivalent scheme for London Fields Lido has 1,200 members. The lack of revenue from this scheme, plus the expectation that the “dryside” facilities will not start making a financial contribution until into 2014, mean they face “a significant financial problem keeping the pool open through the winter“.

Members will have the choice of suspending their membership until the pool reopens, or keeping it running for the other pools run by GLL.

The email lays out some of the costs of running the lido (£200-£500 a day to heat the pool in winter; 1000+ members required to make winter opening viable), and stresses the investment GLL has in making it a success: “We are hopeful that with the whole new complex ‘Royal Greenwich Lido, Charlton’ [sic] up and running next year we will be able to attract the necessary numbers to stay open all year round. GLL will have invested £4m of our money and £1m of Partners money by the time the scheme is finished, so we do need to make it work!”.

(As an aside, if you’ve not had your say on the renaming of the lido yet, you can vote here).

While the lido has clearly been much busier this year than last (thanks, presumably, to the improved weather, plus increased awareness of the pool), it would be interesting to know why take up of the membership has been so low. Are you a member? Have you considered it but decided against? Let us know why in the comments below.

(2nd aside: the lido is now closing at 7pm on weekdays, rather than 8pm as it was through July and August).

41 thoughts on “‘Year-round’ Charlton Lido to close for winter

  1. Vicky September 2, 2013 / 21:20

    They should follow the model from this pool in South West London – http://www.hamptonpool.co.uk/
    It was saved from closure a few years ago by an active community group and is doing really well now. And is open all year round.

  2. ThePirateKing September 2, 2013 / 21:29

    I didn’t even know there was a membership scheme. That might have something to do with it.

  3. Mr_Chas September 2, 2013 / 21:33

    I had no idea that there is a membership scheme. Are they publicising it properly ? Maybe we should start a social media community campaign. I want to swim in winter ! It’s so invigorating

  4. Paula P September 2, 2013 / 22:10

    I’ve been a couple of times & thought it was lovely. I live in West Greench though so whilst getting there first thing in the morning took 10 mins, getting back took ages due to traffic so is just not viable before work. I didn’t realise it opened late or that they had membership. Do think things such as this need to be supported & maintained though, especially for local kids

  5. Neil Clasper September 2, 2013 / 22:17

    Thanks for your comments. A couple of interesting themes emerging here and on Twitter:
    – people unaware of the membership scheme
    – members wondering if their membership ‘counts’, as they originally joined at another GLL centre before the lido reopened.

    I am a member, but the value to me is marginal, as it’s difficult for me to get there midweek (and harder again now it’s closing at 7). £30/month is 5 swims at the adult rate of £6 a swim. It’s just about worth it for me at the moment, and I’m happy enough to show the commitment, but I can see that for many people it’s just not worth the money (particularly when you factor in the joining fee and the hassle of dealing with GLL’s website).

    • ThePirateKing September 2, 2013 / 22:31

      A Greenwich card reduces the cost of a visit for an adult from £6 per visit to £4.25 though. (ANd it’s also kids for a quid at the moment – which is great.)

      I think that’s great value in itself, but at £30 per month I’d have to go 7 times every month to make a membership a better deal.

      I’m obviously not arguing against the very reasonable £4.25 price. Only pointing out that £30 a month might seem a bit steep for the occasional swimmer.

      I think you also get access to GLL’s other pools. If that’s the case then how do they tell the difference between a general member swimming at multi-pools or a member of the Lido?

      • Neil Clasper September 2, 2013 / 22:37

        Interesting about the Greenwich Card discount – I never knew that (but have been puzzled that others were unaware of the membership offers – just shows different people respond differently to advertising).

        From what I remember, when you sign up for membership you select a ‘home’ centre. Charlton only became an option once it reopened, I think.

  6. Kate September 2, 2013 / 23:17

    Membership has been badly publicised. I was offered it by staff (very helpful and hope they won’t lose their jobs) when they noticed that I swam regularly. At the outset this spring, Better got the ticketing horribly wrong. You had to book online and hours ahead to get a cheaper rate. The website was temperamental. Finally (too late) they listened to their staff and the public and introduced reduced payments on the door for Greenwich Card holders and more recently, £1 for kids.
    However another problem came to my notice today- I asked at the Arches what it cost to have a gym membership that included the Lido, and was told that that’s the most expensive membership of all. Swimming indoors at the other leisure centres is included in all other gym membership categories, but that excludes the Lido (unless you pay more). My guess is a lot of swimmers already belong to one of the leisure centre gyms, so Lido swimming is an extra charge.

    I understand the Lido’s ownership is different in that it’s not a Council facility.
    Is there no hope of even a very limited opening time in the winter? Totally impractical?

  7. SR September 2, 2013 / 23:40

    I personally couldn’t think of anything worse than swimming in a communal pool. Ewww

  8. Clare September 2, 2013 / 23:53

    Gutted to hear this, I was planning on keeping up the outdoor swimming here over the winter as triathlon prep. 🙁

  9. Nicola T September 3, 2013 / 07:52

    Personally the thought of changing in the outdoor facilities over the winter has put me off. I have done it a couple of times in the rain this summer and with the current facilities it was a bit of a pain. Wimpy I known but would be more inclined to get a membership once the indoor facilities are complete (plan also to get gym membership then too). Shame that it will close over the winter though, maybe I should toughen up and reconsider!

  10. Nikki September 3, 2013 / 08:24

    Yes – as I mentioned on Twitter – I do have GLL Swim London membership as it makes sense for me when I go through phases of swimming several times a week. But when I joined Swim London I couldn’t have joined through the Lido as it wasn’t open.

    I’m not saying that there’s thousands of us out there in the same position, but it does seem likely that if you’re keen on swimming and live in Greenwich borough you would have come across Swim London and may have signed up. So keen swimmers who are local to the lido might not be counted.

    Of course the other thing is that Swim London membership is sold as allowing members to visit any of GLL’s pools. So the audience for the pool is not in any case made up from the 144 Lido members. We can’t tell GLL how to do their accounting but this seems a bit odd. But perhaps ‘members’ is an argument by proxy for saying the visitor numbers are not high enough.

  11. Neil Clasper September 3, 2013 / 08:42

    Having slept on this, I think I’m more annoyed this morning than I was last night. It feels like an attempt to shift blame on to locals for not showing enough interest, and away from GLL’s failings. They’ve clearly not promoted the facilities properly (I still meet people who live nearby who have no idea it’s reopened as a heated pool); the membership and discounts have been advertised erratically and are difficult to understand (sometimes there’s a joining fee, sometimes there isn’t; you couldn’t use a Greenwich Card, now you can); and their website just isn’t fit for purpose.

    If they had been clearer earlier in the year that staying open in winter would require them to sign up a certain number of people as members, that would have given a focus to their marketing, and probably encouraged regular swimmers to sign up. It would certainly be a more compelling reason than “you might, some months, save a few quid”, which is what the offer probably means to most pool users.

  12. hayley September 3, 2013 / 08:56

    Hi, for what it’s worth I’m making enquiries. Am rather angry too…

  13. scperi September 3, 2013 / 10:48

    I have two points on this.

    1. If you close something you won’t get more members in.

    2. They run the cable car in winter even though very few people use it.

  14. Kate September 3, 2013 / 11:01

    I’m angrier and more upset this morning too. I’m one of the mad few (ok, there aren’t many of us) who swam in the “Spring” this year when it opened.
    I think the toilet problem put off quite a few mums that I’ve spoken to. Others were put off by the fact that it’s a building site. There seem to have been major delays in completion of the building and I do wonder if there are financial issues there and/or if the builders are on a penalty contract for late delivery? It’s a huge blow to me though, as I swim as part of physiotherapy and I hate the 20m crowded, indoor chlorine pits. Plus they aren’t available in the mornings as are full of school kids (the poster above who worries about peeing in the pool…don’t swim indoors).
    I’m going there today and will ask for any info. It doesn’t seem to have been too well thought out by Better management. I feel gutted for the generally excellent staff though – some of them work 12 hour days apparently and I don’t imagine it’s exactly well paid either.
    Another (related) gripe: the lovely new tennis courts at Hornfair Park are now locked in the evening – due to anti social behaviour apparently.

    • ThePirateKing September 3, 2013 / 11:17

      So from the posts above it seems the main reasons memberships might be down are:

      1/ Construction works including the temp loo’s etc.
      2/ A membership scheme that was both complex (regarding where you can swim and for what price) and not well advertised.

  15. Peter Hart September 3, 2013 / 12:23

    The website is impossible to use. The place is a building site. Everything has been very poorly advertised and promoted.

    Look at the success of Tooting Bec Lido with its huge active community group then look at the poor integration of GLL with the local community. Hundreds of people swim at Tooting Bec Lido every day IN AN UNHEATED POOL! compared to the few using the toasty Charlton Lido. It can only be something to do with the above reasons. Also the opening hours are so erratic (earlier in the summer I often fancied a swim after work only to find the place was closed) that you never knew whether you were coming or going.

    • Darryl September 3, 2013 / 15:00

      You make a really strong point about the poor integration of GLL/Better into the community, Peter – as exemplified by the lunatic decision to start calling it “Royal Greenwich Lido”, a name nobody will use.

      I had no idea about Greenwich Card discounts either – the £6 charge put me off from wandering along. All looks like a suicidally optimistic business plan for the first year.

  16. Fiona Veacock September 3, 2013 / 16:58

    I have really enjoyed the Lido all summer. I have not joined though as the benefit was marginal [see N Claspers explanation] and also the daily changes to prices as pre-booked via website, Kids for a quid, Greenwich Card holders and so on and so on have meant that I did not trust I’d join as a member and then find it cheaper to come ona pay as you go basis. As well as the pricing being inconsistant from day to day, the incredibly difficult website shows different times and pricing and entry details too. The staff have been so helpful and pleasant but I don’t think are being briefed at all on what the prices and times are going to be. I was so pleased when they confirmed a week ago [I think?] that it was staying open all year round, with early morning all the way through meaning I could go before work. And really sad last night to be given the clsoure news. But no signs asking me to pay for a winter membership, or for a number of swims ahead or anything at all..if we’d known membership would make the difference maybe some of us could have signed up?

  17. auriolb September 4, 2013 / 06:29

    The Lido opening year-round was some of the best news I’ve had, so disappointing that they’ve changed their plans. Especially since I didn’t get the email, so I assume that although I swim there at least three mornings a week and have a Better swim card they’re not counting me in their 144 members. I’m off there now and will be asking who we could write to. I believe that in past years winter opening has been run by local triathlon club, I wonder if that’s a possibility?

  18. auriolb September 4, 2013 / 07:28

    ah. My triathlete husband tells me the Greenwich Tritons have been in conversation with them but didn’t manage to make it work. Anyone know anything more about that?

    • Neil Clasper September 4, 2013 / 13:09

      Interesting point. You’d have thought the Tritons would be exactly the kind of year-round swimmers that GLL should be engaging with to keep the place busy through winter.

  19. Mary September 4, 2013 / 15:13

    If you have a Greenwich Card it’s £4 to swim! So I’m glad I didn’t get membership and would have been pissed off if I had. But I’m not counted as a member even though I might have gone on swimming through the winter. I really think they just need to promote it more if they’re worried about numbers, although as long as it stays open I like the fact that it’s not overcrowded. And if you’re worried about the chill in the air, get one of those robie robe things. I look a complete arse in mine but it really keeps me warm!

    • Fiona Veacock September 4, 2013 / 16:43

      Just bought one Mary! Looking forward to looking a complete arse too…

  20. Kate September 5, 2013 / 16:18

    “Better” management might like to reconsider their name.
    I swam again today. Staff are as upset as members, as they’ve put a lot of effort and long hours into making it as pleasurable as possible, give the building work that’s going on (which in no way affects the pool btw). The pool was packed again today as it has been for much of this sunny summer. I doubt Better/GLL have plans in place for when normal service is resumed next summer (seeing as we get 1 sunny summer every 7 years).
    The toilets are the main issue at present – bit off putting, but doable.
    I’m a member as swim 3-4 times a week which even with a Greenwich card, is £48+.
    Anyone going to the official BBQ? I want to know who to moan to and their email please.

    • Neil Clasper September 5, 2013 / 20:35

      I hope to go to the barbecue (though I can’t help thinking mid-summer might have been a better time for barbecuing, never mind letting people know the need for membership numbers to increase…).

      Mark Sesnan of GLL has been known to contribute to the comments on this site – perhaps he will on this (and hopefully on the post about the attempted name change). Otherwise, I’m sure I can dig his email address when I get the chance.

      If GLL want to start a lido users group, the Charlton Champion would be happy to help them find some contributors; after all we, already seem to have a number of committed lido-users with positive criticism and a desire to see the lido succeed, commenting on this post.

  21. saminus September 5, 2013 / 20:06

    I’m a swim london monthly subscriber but would happily swap my membership to the lido as I only ever swim there… But can’t do it on site. And if the problem is members I agree, they need to encourage people to join!!!!!!
    I’ll miss swimming there once it closes.

  22. Fiona Veacock September 6, 2013 / 14:42

    Swam again today in the rain, and good to see the sun terraces taking shape, it’s going to be brilliant. Yes let’s have a users group. And moonlight swims, 10pm til 1am in another pool! And members BBQ nights, and links to schools, and an artist in residence and a writing competition in the local paper about the summer there and flyers in kids book bags and after school clubs. And social media profiles that link with local business & families & wild swimming sites and athletes. Hey who knows, could this get more people in there ‘Better’?!

  23. Kate September 7, 2013 / 17:17

    I believe we should also email Victoria Butler, manager of the actual Lido. Don’t have her email address though
    I would be happy to join a Lido users group. Thanks for keeping this issue alive, Neil.

    • Darryl September 9, 2013 / 09:09

      I think a “friends of Charlton Lido” group is an excellent idea – it’s a way of bringing the council and Better/GLL out of their shells and to actually discuss the future of the lido. Users of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels have already started their own group – see http://853blog.com/2013/09/09/greenwich-foot-tunnel-could-be-finished-by-march-2014/

      It’ll need some work in setting up – but could reap dividends.

      • Neil Clasper September 10, 2013 / 12:59

        A ‘Friends of Charlton Lido’ group is a very interesting idea though, as you say, it would take some work.

        If any of our readers and commenters have any thoughts on that – what its objectives should be, how one goes about setting up a Friends group, engaging with GLL/the council, any volunteers to kick it off, etc – perhaps they could get in touch. If there’s sufficient interest we’ll start a new post to explore the idea further.

  24. Fiona Veacock September 10, 2013 / 13:15

    I’d be very keen Neil, Darryl. Community support for other lido’s [and here in Charlton for the football club] seems to have bought about a lot of positive action.

  25. Neil Clasper September 13, 2013 / 17:04

    Just seen this on Twitter:

    It’ll be interesting to see if the council leadership pays any attention…

  26. Patricia nicol September 19, 2013 / 22:49

    I’ve just read through all these comments. I was in for a freezing Good Friday swim when it opened and have since tried to manage at least a weekly swim – more when I can. This is the first I’ve heard of any membership scheme, though I did know to use a greenwich card. When I book on my phone the Better site always seems to open up on high Barnet though I’ve never been there. So all pretty useless. Has the outdoor swimming society shown any interest in campaigning for Better to fulfil their original year-round promise? Has anyone considered a Facebook campaign such as the one to save tynemouth outdoor pool? Has there been much media interest from further afield?

  27. Sarah November 7, 2013 / 14:53

    I’ve been swimming at the Lido twice a week since that freezing April when it re-opened. I’m gutted that this week for the first time in months I’m going to be forced to swim indoors. I last swam on Saturday the 2nd November and it was busy (probably because the regulars knew it was the last time this year) so I think there is a demand for winter swimming. (so long as it’s heated – I’m not one of these people that could do it without!). yes it has been a building site (and horrendously busy over the summer holidays!) but the staff have been lovely and I’m going to miss it so much!

  28. fiona January 13, 2014 / 11:09

    I agree with all the posted comments made here – I often swam there 2/3 times a week and did enquire about membership but it was too costly – as I belong to bexley gyms – although I never go indoor swimming ! however the gym/lido membership for greenwich is too expensive. I have bought a wet suit in readiness for the ‘spring’ swim ….brrrrr.

  29. Sarah Smith September 9, 2014 / 17:02

    I love the lido and really considered joining but it’s just a bit too expensive. I think I worked out that you’d need to swim twice a week to make it worth joining and that’s not very realistic for me. They need to make membership a bit more of a saving on pay as you go otherwise there’s no point. It is a lovely facility though and I hope it is a success.

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