Penzance - the greenest town in Britain?


Penzance is the first UK town to get the Surfers Against Sewage Plastic-Free Coastline status. And they’ve started work to heat the Jubilee pool - the art deco lido on the beachfront - with geothermal energy. We were impressed. And even more so, when we found out Bulb member Martin Nixon, and his son Oliver, are driving forces behind both. We’re so happy to see amazing green things are happening in Cornwall.


Using renewable energy to heat the Jubilee Pool

Penzance’s Jubilee Pool is an Art Deco marvel. When it was built, in 1935, it was designed to be in harmony with nature. The pool’s shaped like a seagull’s wing, spread out across the water of Mount’s Bay on the Cornish coast. It’s not only beautiful, but streamlined to withstand stormy weather and protect swimmers from the wind. But nature hasn’t always been so kind. Unusually fierce storms in February 2014 damaged the pool and its future was uncertain. But Martin, along with some friends, got involved and saved the pool. Now, they’re planning to use nature’s energy to heat the pool. After all, not all are keen to brave the cold, Cornish seawater.

   Jubilee Pool, Penzance. Image:  Nixon Design

Jubilee Pool, Penzance. Image: Nixon Design


When Martin first discussed the idea with his brother, it seemed like a pipe dream. They were enjoying a pint at the time. But they knew people were being put off from swimming in the pool by the cold seawater. Martin thought there was no harm in asking an expert for advice. Within a week, Martin had heard back from Dr Andy Jupe, a specialist in geothermal energy. And it was possible. Dr Jupe said that the part of Cornwall where Penzance sits, the west Penwith peninsula, is made up largely of granite, which is what geothermal wells need. Martin knew he had an idea that could become reality: "In fact, he said to me that Penzance was the hottest spot, which made the hairs go up on the back of my neck. I thought... this is a brilliant opportunity."

That was eight years ago. Much planning and fundraising later, the work on the new geothermal well has just begun. Even abundant natural energy wouldn’t be enough to heat the 2 million gallons of seawater in the whole Jubilee Pool, though. The plan is to create an area large enough for sixty people to bathe comfortably in water that will reach 35 degrees C. The warm water could bring health benefits for young and old — as well as being fun.

  An artist’s impression of the geothermal pool. Image:  Nixon Design

An artist’s impression of the geothermal pool. Image: Nixon Design


And Martin is looking forward to what this could bring to the whole community. He points to the example of Bath, where the natural hot water of the Thermae Bath Spa has brought millions of pounds to the local economy and attracted new tourists — even more than those visiting the famous Roman ruins or Georgian terraces of the city.

Martin says that Penzance is a place which is aware of its green credentials. He runs a design business when he’s not helping the community benefit society that’s in charge of the Jubilee Pool. And he’s always thought of his town as somewhere that’s very creative and where alternative thinking thrives.

Plastic-Free Penzance

We think Martin’s right about that. The community is also thinking creatively about how to protect their corner of the planet. Recently, Penzance become the first town in the UK to be awarded Plastic-Free status by Surfers Against Sewage, a movement dedicated to reducing plastic pollution. Local businesses have been quick to sign up to the campaign. Shops and cafes have found inventive ways to get rid of single-use plastics such as coffee cups, cutlery and cartons. You’ll often find volunteers out picking up plastic litter from the shoreline. And Martin’s son Oliver, a student, was one of the founding members of the Plastic-Free Penzance campaign.

plastic free penzance.jpg

Perhaps it’s no surprise. After all, in Cornwall it’s hard to ignore the natural beauty of your surroundings. As Martin says, "Cornwall’s got the opportunity to be a place where we’re very connected with our environment. We live and work in a beautiful place, why would you want to harm that and ruin it?"

We’re so proud to have the Nixons as Bulb members. Martin’s wife Emily, a jewellery designer, made the decision to switch energy supplier. Bulb appealed because the family like to do things differently. As Martin says, "we don’t like to subscribe to the norm, in any aspect of our lives". And guess what - we’re so glad they don’t.

Fancy owning a share in the Jubilee Pool?

Whilst the Geothermal well has been fully funded, funds still needs to be raised to construct the heated section of the pool. This will be achieved via grant funding and a community fundraising campaign offering people and businesses the opportunity to own shares in Jubilee Pool. The funds raised will enable the construction over winter 2018, with the intention of opening to the public in Spring 2019. You can register your interest in supporting this project here.

  Image:  Nixon Design

Is your community doing amazing green things, just like Penzance? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us all about it on the Bulb Community.

Andrew Nixon