Campaign to save threatened nursery

THE woman in charge of a threatened day nursery has said there has been overwhelming public support for a campaign to save it. Essex County Council is considering closing the popular Grey Friars adult education centre in Colchester High Street and moving services to an upgraded Wilson Marriage Centre in the Hythe area.

THE woman in charge of a threatened day nursery has said there has been overwhelming public support for a campaign to save it.

Essex County Council is considering closing the popular Grey Friars adult education centre in Colchester High Street and moving services to an upgraded Wilson Marriage Centre in the Hythe area.

But the plans were met with dismay by Stepping Stones nursery which has been told it is unlikely to be able to stay at its Wilson Marriage home of nearly 16 years.

Liberal Democrats at County Hall have also urged the Conservative-run council to re-think its policy.

Stepping Stones offers a host of services including after-school clubs, a baby group and also offers respite care for families with children who have additional needs.

Parents from across north Essex use Stepping Stones and have said they would be at a loss without it.

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Carol Nice, group co-ordinator has launched a petition and letters of support have also been flooding in from across Essex.

Mrs Nice said: “We are upset and concerned about what is happening - we have been successful because we have listened to parents and grown as parents have identified their needs.

“People have been coming in, asking if they can take petition forms. We have had three or four churches as well as shops wanting them and we have had a lot of people writing in support.”

She said efforts had already been made to find other locations, but said the rental costs were “astronomical”.

Theresa Higgins, Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for community services, said she also believed Stepping Stones should stay.

She said: “Stepping Stones is a unique nursery offering specialised care for children with special needs, behavioural problems and terminal illnesses.

“The local community has spent a lot of money on providing the facilities required for the varied conditions of these children and it is not possible to just pick the children up and dump them just anywhere else. I urge the Conservatives to rethink this policy and allow the children to stay where they are.”

But Iris Pummell, the Essex county councillor in charge of community services, said: “We value the work of Stepping Stones and other community groups currently located in Wilson Marriage, and we have a duty to forewarn them about these proposals.

“I must also stress that any decision made would be a negotiated process and would be mutually agreed. A decision on the remodelling of Wilson Marriage is due before Christmas, until then nothing is set in stone.

“We are currently investigating the feasibility of the remodelling of Wilson Marriage to improve adult learning provision in Colchester.

“Until this study is complete it is not yet known how much remodelling the centre will need. In the long-term it may be that more space is required at Wilson Marriage in order for us to fulfil our vision for the adult learning centre.”

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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