An artist's impression of The Cove Resort in Southport

The Cove Resort, a new £75m development in Southport, could give a huge boost to the mental health and wellbeing of locals and visitors from across the UK – thanks to its impressive ‘Blue Health’ benefits.

A pre-application for the resort on the Southport seafront has now been lodged with Sefton Council. The new resort could be open as early as 2025.

The new landmark could offer breath-taking views across the coast in one direction, and across ‘The Cove’s’ lagoon towards the Marine Lake beyond in the other.

The development is embracing years of research that points to the substantial benefits of ‘Blue Health’. The studies show that where people spend time both in and around the water, they enjoy tremendous health benefits.

Southport was founded in the 18th century as a retreat where visitors from the industrialised cities could come and take in the restorative benefits of the clean, sea air and all that a seaside resort offered. The Cove’s ambitions are reflective of Southport’s grand past.

The concept is a resort providing multiple leisure and relaxation offerings to day-visitors and those staying longer. There will be something for all members of a group or family. It will consist of three elements:

  • ‘Leisure Beach’ 
  • ‘Thermal Spa’ 
  • Four-star hotel.

Co-founder Tony Howard said: “The Leisure Beach is all things active. Visitors will be able to choose from indoor swimming, surfing and other water activities in the lagoon, plus several indoor and outdoor leisure activities focused on fitness and fun.

“The Thermal Spa talks to the town’s history for bathing houses and hydropathy. If you imagine pools of water at different temperatures, steam rooms, saunas, hammams, a flotation pool etc. Users could take ‘circuits’ of hot and cold or just dwell in our outdoor heated relaxation pool. This would all look out onto the beautiful lagoon and terraces. 

“You can visit and enjoy all the active pursuits in The Cove and along the coastline, or relax within the thermal spa and other facilities. Not everyone wants to be active, at least, not all of the time! 

“Many people seek out somewhere where they can rest. People are looking for a ‘reset’.

We are now more health conscious than we have ever been.

“Compared to say 40 years ago, we are much more aware of our lifestyle and health choices, and how these choices impact us in our later life.

“For example, someone who was 50-years-old in the 1980s would look very different to someone who is 50 years young today.

“Extending lifespan is one thing but it is just as important to increase our ‘healthspan’, taking action now to live healthier and more active lives well into our ‘mature’ years.

“For those wishing to stay for longer at The Cove and Southport, we can help them with their wellness, assisting in ‘resetting’ their lifestyle in terms of fitness, relaxation, even dietary needs, and send them on their way.”

 “We want to be able to offer wellness breaks. We also wish to stage festivals and events, such as fitness festivals and lifestyle events.

“‘Sunny’ Southport has a dynamic climate. Visitors to The Cove can calibrate how they engage with the elements. Active and relaxation facilities can range from being fully indoors, indoors yet under a clear roof, outdoors under our large clear veranda, or fully outdoors embracing all the elements.

“In much the same way as the original bathing lake, our south-facing terraces and lagoon will be sheltered from the sea winds. When you think of the word ‘cove’ it conjures up images of a sheltered bay on the coast.

“The terrace and main public space would be above the height of Southport Sea Wall, and glass facades would offer panoramic views of the coastline in one direction, and of the lagoon and the marine lake in the other.”

The Cove would utilise the powers of ‘Blue Health’ to ensure guests and visitors really benefit from their time at the resort and the town. 

Blue Health is a pan-European Universities research project that has been investigating the links between ‘blue spaces’, climate, and health. 

It examines how wellbeing can be improved through the development of ‘blue infrastructure’.

Southport is home to great beaches, woods and water sports

Southport is home to great beaches, woods and water sports

Tony Howard said: “You don’t have to be in the water to benefit from Blue Health, simply being around water can have a positive impact.

“The research demonstrates that blue spaces – in particular where the water meets beaches, promenades, boardwalks, and lakesides – have a profound impact on improving people’s mental health.

“The Georgians and Victorians were eager to escape the unhealthy and often dangerous industrialised towns and cities, for sea bathing, sea air and the bathing houses of Southport. They recognised it as a physical and mental tonic.

“Today we are attached to our phones and devices, we find it difficult to escape from social media and the digital ‘noise’, we often occupy built-up urban environments, and these all have a detrimental impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

“Spending more time around blue spaces greatly reduces anxiety and depression.

“Blue spaces also help to increase people’s physical activity too.

“The research discovered that people dwell for 50% longer in blue spaces than in green spaces such as parks or woodlands. Community bonds are stronger also. 

“Since moving from the city, back to my hometown of Southport, I have sought out those blue spaces. I regularly walk to, and around, Marine Lake, and cycle up to Ainsdale Beach.

“Living in a city environment you don’t necessarily realise just how it can negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing at a subconscious level.

“Coming to Southport there is a real sense of space. The open landscape has a really calming impact on your mental wellbeing.

“Blue health is not just about The Cove, it’s available to us all, across the entire town and the coastline.

“There is so much to offer in Southport and along our coastline – golf, kitesurfing, cycling, paddle-boarding, the amusement park, sand dunes, pinewoods, and the splendour of Lord Street to name but a few. It’s a great place to live but I also think it should sing on the national stage. We view Southport as ‘The Northwest’s Coastal Playground’, we wish to enhance the offering, and promote it nationally, perhaps even beyond. 

“Hotel guests wouldn’t really need their vehicles during their stay, as this will be supported by our bicycle services. Once at The Cove, the town and the entire coast are easily accessible by bicycle and foot. The 22 miles of coastal cycle paths leading from RSPB nature reserve all the way to Burbo Bank, are glorious.

“The full range of health and wellbeing offerings will be available for locals too. Pop in for an hour or two and get your ‘fix’, get active in the fitness areas, relax in the thermal spa, or take part in the lagoon activities. Free time slots in the lagoon will be made available for local schools and other groups. Just by walking through our doors into the public areas you’ll experience Blue Health in all directions. 

“If done right, Southport Waterfront could be a collection of active experiences available to all. For example, we have spoken to those who have campaigned for many years to bring a high quality, high profile, concrete skatepark and bicycle pump track to the waterfront. These could be tremendous community assets and public realm for the town, and we wish to support that.”

A team of experts working to progress the scheme include architects Leonard Design, construction consultants WWA and wave providers Whitewater West.

The project will be private sector funded and discussions with investors are well advanced.

The full planning process could take a year followed by a construction period of a further two years. 


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