Toftwood baby centre plans get the go-ahead

Little Owls Day Nursery in Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt

Little Owls Day Nursery in Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Nursery managers hope to help meet some of Norfolk's shortfall of childcare provision for under-twos after their expansion plans were given the green light.

Johnny and Justine Watts, who run Little Owls Day Nursery from a converted bungalow on School Lane, in Toftwood, Dereham, had applied to Breckland Council to expand their business into the neighbouring bungalow – creating Norfolk's first dedicated baby nursery in the process.

The proposals, however, were met by strong opposition from people living nearby and councillors for the area who raised concerns about traffic and congestion problems and the lack of parking for staff and parents dropping off their children. At yesterday's Breckland planning committee meeting, it was heard how Mr and Mrs Watts had struck a deal with The Millwrights Arms to enable their staff to park in the pub's car park while at work.

It was also heard how the nursery, which the couple set up 10 years ago, was at full capacity and that the expansion would help meet the demand for childcare provision for children aged under two.

Opinion was divided at yesterday's meeting. Councillors Terry Lamb and Paul Claussen said they felt it was right for the nursery to be close to the neighbourhood, near the schools.

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Other councillors echoed objectors' concerns and said the nursery had 'outgrown' the area.

They voted five in favour to approve the plans, as per the officers' recommendations, and five against, leaving committee chairman Nigel Wilkin to make the final decision. He voted in favour of the proposals.

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He said: 'Measures are being taken to alleviate parking issues and I don't think the parking issues outweigh the need for the nursery.'

Under the plans, the number of spaces will increase from 59 to 84. Mr and Mrs Watts said they hope to buy the property by the end of September, start building work in October and have the extension open by January.

Mrs Watts said they were 'elated' to get the go-ahead. 'We have a massive waiting list. We're a reputable nursery and want to meet the needs of parents and children and give the children the very best.'

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