More than £430,000 being spent to buy and revamp nursery which shut

The Priory Day Nursery site in Great Yarmouth has been bought by Norfolk County Council. Photo: Grea

The Priory Day Nursery site in Great Yarmouth has been bought by Norfolk County Council. Photo: Great Yarmouth Community Trust. - Credit: Great Yarmouth Community Trust

More than £430,000 of taxpayers’ cash is being used to buy and revamp a popular nursery which closed when the trust running it went into liquidation.

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. Pic: Norfolk County Coun

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council will end up spending £436,000 on the Priory Nursery site in Great Yarmouth’s Priory Gardens.

The nursery used to be run by the Great Yarmouth Community Trust, but that went into liquidation in November last year.

The Priory Nursery was one of six nurseries in Norfolk which shut, along with the Horatio House school in Lowestoft and Nexus Engineering in Gorleston. Two nurseries in Lowestoft also closed.

Norfolk County Council created a new company - NCC Nurseries Ltd - to get the Norfolk nurseries, including Priory Nursery, open again, with the staff who had been working at the trust transferred over.The nurseries re-opened in December.But, with the liquidators selling the Priory Nursery building, the council had to step in to buy it - or risk losing the provision.

The council has spent £310,000 to buy the building, £11,000 on stamp duty and will spend £115,000 on refurbishments.

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The deal will also see staff and children from the current Calthorpe Nursery move to the Priory Nursery in the future.

That is because the Calthorpe Nursery, in Alexandra Road, is in another building the liquidators are selling.

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The two nurseries currently provide 112 of the 388 childcare places available in Great Yarmouth.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We purchased the Priory Nursery building to protect the childcare provision, which is a lifeline for so many children, families, and working parents in Great Yarmouth.

“This purchase fits with the wider plan of NCC Nurseries Limited to merge Calthorpe Nursery with Priory Nursery, which together represent almost 30pc of all childcare places in the area, which is a significant number.

“We are committed to doing all we can to ensure early years provision in the Yarmouth area is assured for the long term.

“We are confident this purchase will create the security for NCC Nurseries Limited to build a stable and thriving business, which will at an appropriate time be returned to the market.”

Sarah Jones, director of NCC Nurseries Limited, said: “We have been working hard over the last few months to find the best way forward for all the children, families, and staff of Priory and Calthorpe Nurseries.

“We appreciate that parents and staff have been through uncertain times in recent months and this presents another change, but we are confident this move will be a positive one which will safeguard the future of the nursery and the provision for the children.”

The decision to put the money for the purchase into the council’s capital programme was made by Andrew Jamieson, the council’s cabinet member for finance, last month.

Greg Peck, cabinet members for commercial services and assets and Mr Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services, had approved the purchase.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, physical meetings of the Conservative-controlled cabinet are not taking place, with decisions being made by individual cabinet members, using delegated powers.

But Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour group at Norfolk County Council, said: “We warned time and again closing children’s centres was a false economy. Now we see large amounts having to be spent recreating just part of the much loved facilities Great Yarmouth families rely on.

“Closing children’s centres was ill thought through and politically incompetent. This the beginning of a long financially and socially expensive legacy we’ll all suffer until children’s centres return.”

Mike Smith-Clare, Labour county and borough councillor, said: “So we see the wholescale annihilation of children’s centres across Norfolk, the demise of the Great Yarmouth Community Trust – and now out of nowhere this. Unbelievable yet more unsurprising inconsistency from Tory administration devoid of any decent direction.”

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