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No cash to splash
It was a bad day at Black Rock when the famous open-air swimming pool closed in 1978 and the site is still empty more than 30 years later.
Black Rock was a busy and popular pool, beautifully designed in art deco style. It was ideal for people who did not like the pebbles on the beach that may have given the area its name.
It was built in 1936 on the site of an ornamental garden and was a large pool, measuring 50 by 20 yards.
Its heyday was just before and after the Second World War. Once people began to take holidays abroad, the bracing water at Black Rock no longer seemed so enticing.
When work started nearby on Brighton Marina, the pool appeared to be in a construction site and the number of swimmers declined sharply.
It developed a severe leak, possibly through being so close to the marina, and Brighton council at the time decided it was not worth repairing.
There were many schemes to replace it but all came to nothing. The first was a privately financed water park, which would have been a big attraction, but which attracted intense opposition from people living in Kemp Town.
There were problems in raising enough cash for it and the same problem affected the council’s own plans for a similar attraction there.
More recently, councillors granted permission for an ambitious set of ice rinks at Black Rock, backed by skaters such as Jayne Torvill and Robin Cousins. Once again cash has not been forthcoming.
Southern Water took over the pool site to build a storm water tunnel under the seafront in order to prevent overflow pipes discharging water from drains into the sea after heavy rain.
But the story of Black Rock is more than the tale of a pool. For years until the boundary was extended to Rottingdean in 1928, it marked the eastern end of Brighton.
It was also the point at which the chalky cliffs of the South Downs met the sea, leading to some interesting geological finds. Today, part of this land is preserved as a site of special scientific interest.
There was modest development at Black Rock in the 19th century, including houses, shops, a guest house and the gasworks. It was all rather quaint and odd.
But the area was prone to landslips and occasionally they would force the closure of the road to Rottingdean, then a minor thoroughfare. Many of the old houses fell into the sea.
In the 1930s, Brighton Council built the Undercliff Walk which stopped most erosion, although not in 2000 after an exceptional series of autumn downpours.
The council felt confident enough to construct a wide road to the east called Marine Drive.
The Black Rock area was ruined by the marina’s arrival. A sprawl of roads to make the entrance claimed much land and was extremely ugly.
There was strong opposition to the roads, particularly from people in Rifle Butt Road, but they were eventually approved.
The future of Black Rock centres largely on the pool and is uncertain. But it seems increasingly likely that any development there will have to be linked to the marina.
Ice would be nice but there is no more money in that than there is in building a new open- air swimming pool, delightful though that would be. We will probably have to put up with a gash in the ground for a few more years yet.
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