MILLIONS of pounds could be spent on vital repairs and improvements to Lymington's famous seawater baths.

The town council wants to secure the future of the 187-year-old lido - said to be the oldest and largest attraction of its type in the country.

Proposals include major structural repairs, a new restaurant and year-round activities at the site, which currently closes at the end of each summer.

Other ideas under discussion include covering part of the pool in the winter to create a skating rink as well as enabling more boating and canoeing activities to take place out of season.

New Forest Post:

The council is hoping to secure up to £5m of funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.

Cllr Alan Penson, chairman of the policy and resources committee, said: “We are talking a very major project. There’s lot of work to be carried out to get into a situation where we can make an application.

“The first stage would be to develop the scheme and the costings prior to putting in a full bid. We're talking about a multi-million-pound scheme.”

The baths, which date from 1833, occupy a large site overlooking the Solent and the entrance to the Lymington River.

Cllr Barry Dunning, chairman of the amenities committee and a former mayor of Lymington, said the lido was a unique structure which was worth keeping.

But he added: "It's built on mud and it's a continuing battle to keep it up to an acceptable standard.

"Eventually it's going to need major renovation. All we're doing at the moment is conducting a firefighting operation and it's costing us a lot of money to run the site."

New Forest Post:

Spud, an urban design charity based in Sway, will prepare a funding bid in the hope of triggering an expression of interest from the heritage fund.

If that proves successful the council could proceed with a full application to help fund the project.

The baths are owned and maintained by the authority but are managed by Lynx Sports Management, headed by businessman Hugo Ambrose.

Mr Ambrose said: "The condition of the baths is fine for the moment but people need to be looking ten-15 years in front.

"I would hope the Heritage Lottery Fund supports the application. The baths are a valuable part of the Lymington community and the wider New Forest.

"The council have been good and have done the maintenance work they can but we need to get other people involved."