A south London lido has been criticised for its poorly maintained, unclean facilities and online booking system which users claim excludes families and those on lower incomes.
Brockwell Lido’s outdoor pool and gym facilities attract up to 2,000 visitors daily during peak season according to management organisation Fusion Lifestyle, but this summer disappointed users have been met with unclean changing rooms and broken showers and toilets.
Ben Longman, chair of the Brockwell Lido Users group (BLU), said that members have been voicing complaints for over a year and while they were willing to cut Fusion some slack in the immediate wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, their failure to address concerns has increased frustrations.
He said: “The fixes to these things are not particularly mysterious, it’s not beyond the width of a leisure operator to fix showers in changing rooms, clean the bottom of the pool and make sure that lockers are secure for gym users to use.
“These are recurring problems that have come up time and time again without a resolution.
“Users are sick of being fobbed off with excuses, timelines that aren’t met, non-answers and a lack of resolution.”
The 86-year-old Brixton lido underwent a major refurbishment and expansion in 2007, but regular visitors claim management have failed to maintain the facilities to an acceptable level.
Swimmer Jenny Landreth said that while she enjoys her time in the pool, she actively avoids the “historically grim” women’s changing rooms where there has been only one functioning shower since May.
She said: “The pool is lovely, we’re extremely lucky to have it as a resource.
“There’s no doubt that the swimming part of the experience is fabulous, but the rest of the experience is actually pretty grim.”
Other users took to social media to share their disgust at dirty changing rooms and toilets and broken showers.
Others complained they have struggled to access the lido this summer due to the online booking system which Longman described as “incredibly hostile” to families and low-income groups.
According to Longman, parents wishing to take their children swimming are forced to choose from a small number of hour-long family sessions which sell out quickly.
“It’s supposed to be a place where people in Brixton and Herne Hill go to cool off, and that’s no longer the case because those slots that are available to families are in incredibly high demand.
“There’s a whole generation of young swimmers that are missing out on being able to come to the lido.”
Longman argues the £8 fee payable on booking deters those with lower incomes who won’t risk wasting their money on a day out only for it to be blighted by unpredictable British weather.
The BLU chair is concerned that the system has a disproportionately exclusionary impact on Brixton’s large black community.
He said: “We have written to Fusion and told them it is a de-facto racist and anti-child booking.
“It’s not designed to be like that, but that’s its impact.”
Responding to these concerns, a Fusion spokesperson said while customers are welcome to turn up and pay on the day, pre-booking has been popular as it provides certainty and prevents the four-hour queues which were common prior to its introduction.
They added that family swims form a large part of the lido’s offering.
Addressing maintenance issues, the spokesperson explained around £50,000 has already been invested in improvements, while further significant investment is underway.
They said: “We share the frustration where delays have been experienced, a result of global supply chain issues, and we are working hard to minimise the disruption at a busy time.”
Lambeth councillors are aware of concerns, as is Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes who visited the lido on 29 June to discuss her constituents’ complaints.
However, users have been disappointed with Fusion’s failure to engage with them directly.
Swimmer Benoit Lamour said he is yet to see any improvement to facilities despite staff reassuring him that Fusion are “working on” fixing reported faults for over a year.
He suspects the organisation’s lack of motivation to improve conditions or respond to customers is created partly by consistently high levels of demand.
Lamour said: “I think they are abusing the knowledge that there is little to no other choice for swimmers like myself.”
While Longman does not know the cause of the lido’s mismanagement, he is clear that Fusion must take accountability.
He said: “Fusion are failing in their mandate to run the pool for the broader community, and we need that to be fixed.
“That requires them to stop hiding behind the booking system and adopting processes that are fit for use for the community that wants to come and use the pool.”
While poor conditions will not stop committed swimmers like Landreth using the outdoor pool, she agrees that the lido’s perceived neglect risks deterring casual users and depriving the community of a once excellent facility.
She said: “The lido is a jewel in the heart of Brixton, it’s been there for a very long time and it’s really, really sad to see it being so neglected.
“I don’t think Fusion take this pool seriously, I don’t think they’re treating it with the love and care that it deserves and that its community deserves.
“I think that’s a fatal misstep.”
Featured image credit: Mirrhyn Stephen