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FITNESS, HEALTH, WELLNESS

features

HCM People: Duncan AndersonCEO, South Downs Leisure

Once you try swimming outdoors, in the wild or the sea it’s hard to go back

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 6
Sea Lanes has a gym, as well as yoga and Pilates in its business units / Photo: JOHN WELLER
Sea Lanes has a gym, as well as yoga and Pilates in its business units / Photo: JOHN WELLER
Our aim is for Sea Lanes to act as a catalyst in the regeneration of this area of Brighton

Tell us about Sea Lanes
Sea Lanes is the new swimming centre on the seafront in Brighton UK. It’s been designed as a gateway between pool and open water swimming and we hope it will become a hub for the sport and recognised as the national open-water swimming centre.

The facility has a 50m, six-lane outdoor pool/lido sitting right next to the beach with beautiful sea views, as well as changing rooms and 34 business units housing additional facilities and support services.

The companies occupying these were picked carefully to ensure we can offer a complete package for people who wish to train and develop their swimming ability.

They include an indoor Endless Pool for technical coaching, nutrition services, the Sea Gym Brighton, Paddle People, Reach Physiotherapy, Luna Wave Yoga, a Pilates school as well as some hospitality brands – Bison Beer, Fika Café, Wood and Coal Food and many more. Swimming holidays with Swim Trek also has its base here.

Importantly, these organisations and companies also supported the project in its early stages.

Who owns the development?
There are four main shareholders, Ross Gilbert, MD of QED Properties, Joe Mcnaulty, MD of Copse Mill Properties, Andy White, founder of Ocean Set and open water swimmer Simon Murie of Swim Trek. I’ve been involved for the past five years and South Downs Leisure is operating the pool on a 25-year lease.

What’s the back-story?
Creating Sea Lanes has been a dream for the shareholders for the past eight years, since they won a council competition to develop this specific piece of land on Brighton beach that had formerly been the Peter Pan Leisure Park. It’s just under a kilometre left of Brighton Pier.

Their plan was always to build a lido and as a result of building it as a 50m pool, they’ve been given a further 25 years extension on the land from the freeholder, Brighton and Hove City Council.

Are you tapping into the growth in wild swimming?
Yes we are, this market is huge and still growing strongly. The pandemic has helped to drive interest, as many people took to wild swimming when pools were closed and once you try swimming outdoors, in the wild or the sea it’s hard to go back, as it’s so exhilarating.

How much did Sea Lanes?
Around £5m. This breaks down as just over £2.7m for the pool and £2.2m for the 34 accompanying business units. The money came from a combination of the four main shareholders and the bank.

What are the trading arrangements?
South Downs Leisure pays an annual contract fee to operate the pool and once we’ve agreed a figure for reserves to maintain the pool to a high specification, we’ll operate on a gain-share with Sea Lanes.

How’s it been going since opening?
Business has been booming, with 1,550 people already signed up to pay a monthly membership.

We’ve had to close the membership because we’re at capacity, although more may be released at some point.

The pay-and-play take-up has also been strong, with over 5,000 people making use of Sea Lanes in the first month by booking a session on our South Downs Leisure app.

How much does it cost to swim and are you hitting your financial targets?
Monthly memberships ranges from £50-£55 a month or £35 for students and for pay-and-play, it costs £11 to swim and £7 for various concessions.

The business plan for Sea Lanes was written in the middle of lockdown before the utility crisis, inflation, mortgage and cost of living crisis all kicked in. As a result of all those factors we needed to charge the correct price at Sea Lanes, to not only fit in with the value proposition of the brand, but also to make it sustainable for the future and to reflect the true cost of operating a pool. I can report that we’re surpassing our targets.

How have you approached programming?
The pool is open from 6.00am to 9.00pm Monday-Friday and to 6.30pm at weekends. We have about a dozen clubs and organisations currently making use of it, including Brighton swim club, local schools, Sea Birds, Swim Trek, Brighton Tri Club, In the swim, Out to swim, Team Dominica and Brighton Phoenix.

We also have showers and lockers on the outside of the building for use by sea swimmers and this set-up includes a mat that can be rolled out over the pebble beach to make the sea more accessible.

We plan to encourage more people to swim safely in the sea and are looking at starting a weekly free sea-swim event run by volunteers, along a similar line to Parkrun.

Will you trade through the winter?
Yes, the facility will only close on Christmas and New Years’ day, or for major maintenance.

Who designed Sea Lanes?
Brighton-based Evolution Architects’ director Bruce Warren was the principal architect for the project (www.evolutionarchitecture.co.uk).

Why did you build at 50m rather than 25m?
We were restricted in where we could build. To the north we have the Volks Railway line, which is the oldest operational electric railway in the world – dating back to 1883 – and to the south we couldn’t go beyond where other facilities have been built, such as Yellow Wave Beach Volleyball.

What advice do you have for others thinking of building for open water swimming?
The potential is there for others to develop these kinds of facilities, but you have to understand your market and the needs of the community. It wouldn’t simply be a case of picking up Sea Lanes and dropping it somewhere else, there are many questions that need to be answered first.

Key to success is making it sustainable for the environment, as well as financially and understanding your market. If you try to be all things to all people it will cost more to build, cost more to operate and you’ll end up upsetting more people. Understand what you can do well and maintain the focus.

All the above will create political challenges and you will have to disappoint some people.

How important is the location?
The wider location of the City of Brighton is perfect, with a population of over 600,000 and a well-established, sporty, outdoor culture.

While there are some great community pools in Brighton, the majority are beyond their sell by date and in need of refurbishment.

The location within Brighton is a very active beach zone with many national and local events taking place in the area and being situated next to Yellow Wave Beach Volleyball means there were already great synergies. Our aim is for Sea Lanes to act as a catalyst in the regeneration of this area of the city.

Tell us about Sea Lanes’ eco credentials
Sustainability is and has always been at the forefront when it comes to decision-making and before we even started to lay the foundations, all the beach vegetation was carefully lifted and moved half a mile to the west.

Very early on we also made the decision about the temperature of the pool, as this needed to be right for the clientele and the business model.

We wanted to attract sea swimmers and introduce sea swimming to new people, so there was no point heating the pool to a temperature well beyond that of the sea nearby. As a result, the pool plant was designed to heat it to between 15c and 19c. We’ve reached as high as 24c in the recent heatwave, but this was purely through solar gain.

The tank is 1.28m deep across the whole length of the pool, with no deep or shallow end, as this is more efficient to heat than deeper pools and we have solar panels on the changing room and plant roof that produced over 2000Kwh of energy in the first month. There’s also a pool cover which is split into two parts that can insulate the whole of the 50m pool.

On a day-to-day basis, we’re using cleaning products that are eco-friendly, with no lasting damage to the environment. These are alcohol- and phospate-free, plant-based, vegan-friendly and supplied in 100 per cent recycled bottles.

The lockers and cubicles are constructed from upcycled plastic and the majority of staff uniforms will be also made from recycled plastic bottles.

We’re enforcing a swim cap rule and encouraging all customers to shower before entry to minimise use of chemicals and reduce backwashing and the plant room has been made hydrogen-ready, should we have an opportunity to convert to green hydrogen in the future. We also had talks with Shoreham Port during the design about taking excess hydrogen they produce for their haulage trucks and this conversation is ongoing.

We put a Perspex windbreak around the entire pool to reduce loss of water from wind – this can be one of the biggest costs when it comes to lidos, as you have to heat new water to get it up to temperature and also treat it.

We’re installing kit to measure wind-speed, outside temperature and pool temperature throughout the year to make forecasting of operating costs more of an exact science.

We’re also working with www.ecologi.com so for every new member at Sea Lanes we plant a tree in places such as Madagascar, Peru or Uganda, providing vital habitats, while supporting the lives of local people.

• Read more about Sea Lanes in the current issue of Swim magazine, which is available at www.justswimmag.com or on Instagram at @justswimmag

"We hope Sea Lanes will become the national open-water swimming centre and a hub for the sport," – Duncan Anderson, CEO, South Downs Leisure

Sea Lanes costs £7-11 per single visit, or £50-55 per month / photo: South Downs Leisure
Sea Lanes costs £7-11 per single visit, or £50-55 per month / photo: South Downs Leisure
People will be able to swim all-year-round / photo: South Downs Leisure
People will be able to swim all-year-round / photo: South Downs Leisure
Sea Lanes taps into the huge growth in open water swimming / photo: South Downs Leisure
Sea Lanes taps into the huge growth in open water swimming / photo: South Downs Leisure
The pool is located next to the electric Volks Railway, the oldest in the world / photo: South Downs Leisure
The pool is located next to the electric Volks Railway, the oldest in the world / photo: South Downs Leisure
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2023/446995_587235.jpg
The CEO of South Downs Leisure explains how Sea Lanes, the new lido on Brighton seafront, will be a gateway to open water swimming
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features

HCM People: Duncan AndersonCEO, South Downs Leisure

Once you try swimming outdoors, in the wild or the sea it’s hard to go back

Published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 6
Sea Lanes has a gym, as well as yoga and Pilates in its business units / Photo: JOHN WELLER
Sea Lanes has a gym, as well as yoga and Pilates in its business units / Photo: JOHN WELLER
Our aim is for Sea Lanes to act as a catalyst in the regeneration of this area of Brighton

Tell us about Sea Lanes
Sea Lanes is the new swimming centre on the seafront in Brighton UK. It’s been designed as a gateway between pool and open water swimming and we hope it will become a hub for the sport and recognised as the national open-water swimming centre.

The facility has a 50m, six-lane outdoor pool/lido sitting right next to the beach with beautiful sea views, as well as changing rooms and 34 business units housing additional facilities and support services.

The companies occupying these were picked carefully to ensure we can offer a complete package for people who wish to train and develop their swimming ability.

They include an indoor Endless Pool for technical coaching, nutrition services, the Sea Gym Brighton, Paddle People, Reach Physiotherapy, Luna Wave Yoga, a Pilates school as well as some hospitality brands – Bison Beer, Fika Café, Wood and Coal Food and many more. Swimming holidays with Swim Trek also has its base here.

Importantly, these organisations and companies also supported the project in its early stages.

Who owns the development?
There are four main shareholders, Ross Gilbert, MD of QED Properties, Joe Mcnaulty, MD of Copse Mill Properties, Andy White, founder of Ocean Set and open water swimmer Simon Murie of Swim Trek. I’ve been involved for the past five years and South Downs Leisure is operating the pool on a 25-year lease.

What’s the back-story?
Creating Sea Lanes has been a dream for the shareholders for the past eight years, since they won a council competition to develop this specific piece of land on Brighton beach that had formerly been the Peter Pan Leisure Park. It’s just under a kilometre left of Brighton Pier.

Their plan was always to build a lido and as a result of building it as a 50m pool, they’ve been given a further 25 years extension on the land from the freeholder, Brighton and Hove City Council.

Are you tapping into the growth in wild swimming?
Yes we are, this market is huge and still growing strongly. The pandemic has helped to drive interest, as many people took to wild swimming when pools were closed and once you try swimming outdoors, in the wild or the sea it’s hard to go back, as it’s so exhilarating.

How much did Sea Lanes?
Around £5m. This breaks down as just over £2.7m for the pool and £2.2m for the 34 accompanying business units. The money came from a combination of the four main shareholders and the bank.

What are the trading arrangements?
South Downs Leisure pays an annual contract fee to operate the pool and once we’ve agreed a figure for reserves to maintain the pool to a high specification, we’ll operate on a gain-share with Sea Lanes.

How’s it been going since opening?
Business has been booming, with 1,550 people already signed up to pay a monthly membership.

We’ve had to close the membership because we’re at capacity, although more may be released at some point.

The pay-and-play take-up has also been strong, with over 5,000 people making use of Sea Lanes in the first month by booking a session on our South Downs Leisure app.

How much does it cost to swim and are you hitting your financial targets?
Monthly memberships ranges from £50-£55 a month or £35 for students and for pay-and-play, it costs £11 to swim and £7 for various concessions.

The business plan for Sea Lanes was written in the middle of lockdown before the utility crisis, inflation, mortgage and cost of living crisis all kicked in. As a result of all those factors we needed to charge the correct price at Sea Lanes, to not only fit in with the value proposition of the brand, but also to make it sustainable for the future and to reflect the true cost of operating a pool. I can report that we’re surpassing our targets.

How have you approached programming?
The pool is open from 6.00am to 9.00pm Monday-Friday and to 6.30pm at weekends. We have about a dozen clubs and organisations currently making use of it, including Brighton swim club, local schools, Sea Birds, Swim Trek, Brighton Tri Club, In the swim, Out to swim, Team Dominica and Brighton Phoenix.

We also have showers and lockers on the outside of the building for use by sea swimmers and this set-up includes a mat that can be rolled out over the pebble beach to make the sea more accessible.

We plan to encourage more people to swim safely in the sea and are looking at starting a weekly free sea-swim event run by volunteers, along a similar line to Parkrun.

Will you trade through the winter?
Yes, the facility will only close on Christmas and New Years’ day, or for major maintenance.

Who designed Sea Lanes?
Brighton-based Evolution Architects’ director Bruce Warren was the principal architect for the project (www.evolutionarchitecture.co.uk).

Why did you build at 50m rather than 25m?
We were restricted in where we could build. To the north we have the Volks Railway line, which is the oldest operational electric railway in the world – dating back to 1883 – and to the south we couldn’t go beyond where other facilities have been built, such as Yellow Wave Beach Volleyball.

What advice do you have for others thinking of building for open water swimming?
The potential is there for others to develop these kinds of facilities, but you have to understand your market and the needs of the community. It wouldn’t simply be a case of picking up Sea Lanes and dropping it somewhere else, there are many questions that need to be answered first.

Key to success is making it sustainable for the environment, as well as financially and understanding your market. If you try to be all things to all people it will cost more to build, cost more to operate and you’ll end up upsetting more people. Understand what you can do well and maintain the focus.

All the above will create political challenges and you will have to disappoint some people.

How important is the location?
The wider location of the City of Brighton is perfect, with a population of over 600,000 and a well-established, sporty, outdoor culture.

While there are some great community pools in Brighton, the majority are beyond their sell by date and in need of refurbishment.

The location within Brighton is a very active beach zone with many national and local events taking place in the area and being situated next to Yellow Wave Beach Volleyball means there were already great synergies. Our aim is for Sea Lanes to act as a catalyst in the regeneration of this area of the city.

Tell us about Sea Lanes’ eco credentials
Sustainability is and has always been at the forefront when it comes to decision-making and before we even started to lay the foundations, all the beach vegetation was carefully lifted and moved half a mile to the west.

Very early on we also made the decision about the temperature of the pool, as this needed to be right for the clientele and the business model.

We wanted to attract sea swimmers and introduce sea swimming to new people, so there was no point heating the pool to a temperature well beyond that of the sea nearby. As a result, the pool plant was designed to heat it to between 15c and 19c. We’ve reached as high as 24c in the recent heatwave, but this was purely through solar gain.

The tank is 1.28m deep across the whole length of the pool, with no deep or shallow end, as this is more efficient to heat than deeper pools and we have solar panels on the changing room and plant roof that produced over 2000Kwh of energy in the first month. There’s also a pool cover which is split into two parts that can insulate the whole of the 50m pool.

On a day-to-day basis, we’re using cleaning products that are eco-friendly, with no lasting damage to the environment. These are alcohol- and phospate-free, plant-based, vegan-friendly and supplied in 100 per cent recycled bottles.

The lockers and cubicles are constructed from upcycled plastic and the majority of staff uniforms will be also made from recycled plastic bottles.

We’re enforcing a swim cap rule and encouraging all customers to shower before entry to minimise use of chemicals and reduce backwashing and the plant room has been made hydrogen-ready, should we have an opportunity to convert to green hydrogen in the future. We also had talks with Shoreham Port during the design about taking excess hydrogen they produce for their haulage trucks and this conversation is ongoing.

We put a Perspex windbreak around the entire pool to reduce loss of water from wind – this can be one of the biggest costs when it comes to lidos, as you have to heat new water to get it up to temperature and also treat it.

We’re installing kit to measure wind-speed, outside temperature and pool temperature throughout the year to make forecasting of operating costs more of an exact science.

We’re also working with www.ecologi.com so for every new member at Sea Lanes we plant a tree in places such as Madagascar, Peru or Uganda, providing vital habitats, while supporting the lives of local people.

• Read more about Sea Lanes in the current issue of Swim magazine, which is available at www.justswimmag.com or on Instagram at @justswimmag

"We hope Sea Lanes will become the national open-water swimming centre and a hub for the sport," – Duncan Anderson, CEO, South Downs Leisure

Sea Lanes costs £7-11 per single visit, or £50-55 per month / photo: South Downs Leisure
Sea Lanes costs £7-11 per single visit, or £50-55 per month / photo: South Downs Leisure
People will be able to swim all-year-round / photo: South Downs Leisure
People will be able to swim all-year-round / photo: South Downs Leisure
Sea Lanes taps into the huge growth in open water swimming / photo: South Downs Leisure
Sea Lanes taps into the huge growth in open water swimming / photo: South Downs Leisure
The pool is located next to the electric Volks Railway, the oldest in the world / photo: South Downs Leisure
The pool is located next to the electric Volks Railway, the oldest in the world / photo: South Downs Leisure
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2023/446995_587235.jpg
The CEO of South Downs Leisure explains how Sea Lanes, the new lido on Brighton seafront, will be a gateway to open water swimming
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