THOUSANDS of people celebrated the reopening of the only Grade II* listed lido in the country on Saturday.

The campaign to revive Saltdean Lido has been seven years in the making but it finally opened its doors to some 5,000 people.

The £3 million renovation project has culminated in a heated 40m pool and separate children’s paddling pool built from scratch following the original 1930s Art Deco design.

Money was also spent on equipment to heat and filter the water, changing rooms and landscaping the grounds around the pool.

Queues grew along Saltdean Park Road as temperatures hit highs of 25 degrees.

Brighton Swimming Club launched the celebrations with a synchronised swimming routine.

Then crowds eagerly jostled to be among the first into the pool when it officially reopened at 10am.

The party atmosphere continued with live music, refreshment stalls and plenty of space to relax around the pool in between dips.

Louise, Chris, Poppy and Daisy Wardle drove an hour from their home in Battle to be at the opening.

Chris, 47, said: “It is just fantastic to be here.

“We’ve all been desperate to get in.

“My parents used to bring me here as a child from Worthing.

“It has brought back so many memories. I just don’t understand why these places closed.”

Louise, 37, said: “It’s lovely, it makes a huge difference being heated. I think that will make it really popular.

“We feel like we have been a little part of history coming for the opening and this is the sort of good news we all need.”

Their daughters Daisy, ten, and Poppy, seven, said they “definitely” wanted to return.

Margaret Watkins, 68, of Worthing, went to see her daughter Hannah Devreindt, 41, and grandaughter Lottie, ten, perform in the synchronised swimming routine.

She said being able to see the old pictures of the lido on display was “fascinating”.

Lottie said: “It’s much nicer being out in the fresh air than being in a hot and sticky leisure centre.”

She attended with her fellow performer and friend Gaia Fitzpatrick, also ten, of Woodingdean, who said: “The pool is really cool, it was very exciting being part of the opening with everyone watching.”

The lido was described by Historic England as one of the seven wonders of the English seaside. It was designed by R W H Jones to give swimmers the impression of being on a cruise liner.

It closed for 24 years because of the Second World War and again in 1995 because of falling visitors and the need for repairs. Residents outraged at plans to turn the site into 125 apartments in 2010 began to campaign for its return.

Rebecca Crook, community interest company director, lives nearby and has helped realise the project while maintaining a full-time job.

The next challenge is the £8 million renovation of the lido building which could begin next year if the group gets the funds it needs.

Around £4.5 million of this has been pledged provided it raises the rest through fundraising.

Ticket revenue will pay the expensive running costs and to employ lifeguards.

Ms Cook said: “We are feeling happy and confident about the future.”