In 1990, we were forced to travel to Owlsmoor for full time day nursery care for our pre-school child. Moving on a generation, and Blackwater and Hawley still lacked any full time Day Nursery facility! Local residents still have to make car journeys every day to surrounding facilities. So in 25 years of living in Blackwater & Hawley nothing has changed, while surrounding communities have actively encouraged a range of solutions to meet the needs of local families.
The Childcare sector has experienced changes through:
- The introduction of different care formats to address different parent needs
- Adoption of sustainable business and funding models
- Constant improvements in standards through OFSTED regulation and market competition
- Government funding of parental choices, particularly the extension of 15 hours (570 free hours per year) to 30 hours (1,140 free hours per year) for 3 & 4 year olds
Communities need a variety of local child care facilities to accommodate the needs of working families, whatever the format of their work patterns and this view is supported in current Government policy. This has been incorporated into statutory duty through the Childcare Act:
- Childcare Act 2006 Section 6 places a duty on English local authorities to secure sufficient childcare for working parents. The statutory guidance for Section 6 part B regarding “securing sufficient childcare” defines outcome as: “parents are able to work because childcare places are available, accessible and affordable and are delivered flexibly in a range of high quality settings.”
- Childcare Act 2016 Section places a duty on the Secretary of State to secure the equivalent of 30 hours of free childcare over 38 weeks of the year for qualifying children.
The vision is not only to provide a full time day care facility, but to provide a facility that has long term sustainability through a new “fit for purpose through design” facility
There is no specific definition given in planning legislation for the term ‘crèche’, ‘Nursery’ or ‘pre-school playgroup’ however the following is a broad description which would cover potential uses:
“A place where a number of children under five years of age are brought together for part or all of a working day regularly and where provision is made for their care, recreation and in some cases meals”
Nursery schools, maintained nurseries and pre-schools tend to cater for children aged between 3 and 5, offering early education in the couple of years before they begin “big school”. Many of these settings are purpose-built and are sometimes part of the larger school building.
Day nurseries tend to provide childcare for children from the ages of six weeks to 5 years. Opening hours vary but an average day nursery is likely to open between 7am and 8am to accommodate working parents and close between 6pm and 7pm.
Hawley Green currently has no full time Day Nursery, which is an unusual situation and out of alignment with surrounding areas. This lack of local provision forces working parents needing childcare to use local child minding or to travel outside of the local area to use daycare facilities in surrounding centres such as Yateley, Sandhurst, Camberley, Farnborough and even further away. This generates additional car trips on local roads and no opportunity to better utilise existing trips to pickup and deliver to both Day Nursery and School for “split siblings”.
Having adequate local resources is also important to the sustainability of Blackwater & Hawley. Without a range of high quality childcare and education options, Blackwater & Hawley becomes a less attractive option for young families.
The setting is a very important criteria in achieving a quality setting for a Day Nursery. For this reason, Day Nurseries cannot be located on any site, the setting must offer security and opportunities for stimulation of the children through learning experiences.
If you were selecting for your child, what would you be looking for in its location and surroundings?
Day Nurseries have changed considerably from previous generations of converted houses in residential streets. The design of the Day Nursery setting is regarded as an integral part of the delivery of quality care and Design guidance was published in 2013 relating to the design of SureStart centres and contained guidance on the following aspects of design:
- Designing play spaces – flexible spaces with good proportions supporting different kinds of activities to encourage independence.exploration and creativity
- Making the most of the site – create interesting views of the outside using doors and windows and natural elements such as trees
- Allowing run-in, run out play – link indoor and outdoor play spaces together so children can run between them
- Creating challenging outside play – a safe, stimulating environment where children can play creatively
Also the following design objectives were provided:
- Be inspiring to local children, their families and staff
- Be highly valued by the community that it serves
- Be welcoming, accessible and easy to use
- Be sustainable and respect the environment
- Be flexible, supportive and responsive to changing needs
This guidance has been adopted in the design of the Day Nursery to create a setting that not only addresses today’s requirements, but can also adapt to future needs to ensure that it is sustainable.
The site is next to the community centre of Hawley Green, within walking distance of Hawley Primary School, Hawley Memorial Hall, Hawley Leisure Centre and the green open space of Hawley Green.
- Safe setting as the site can be fully secured for children’s safety. This is complemented by a cul-de-sac road access road configuration with a continuous vehicle turning loop.
- Visibility of surrounding activities from the green play areas provides visual stimulation for the children
- Adjacent walking to Hawley Green provides the opportunity for “Trips Out”. These provide children with educational experiences, away from their regular environment
- It has good access to alternative travel options of rail & bus links at Blackwater Town Centre. These are not only important for onward travel by Parents, but also for Nursery staff, as many cannot afford the expense of running their own car.
Originally the site was owned by the MOD until I purchased it in 1990. The land was of no amenity value being covered in dense holly growth and used as a general dumping ground. Hart District Council recognised that their procedures to protect the significant trees would take time and could only start when the site ownership status had moved from the MOD. A “gentleman’s agreement” was made and the major oak and beech trees on the site were subsequently protected by a Tree Preservation Order. Thinning has encouraged the trees to develop balanced growth and canopy shape. TPO’s generally protect significant trees that are generally well advanced in their life cycle and no provision is made for natural succession.We have voluntarily preserved trees of younger growth and also planted new trees. To continue this, the design of the Day Nursery uses non excavation techniques to preserve the full area for tree root activity. More detailed information of the “green” techniques can be found under the Design Objectives tab on the menu.
Pedestrian access is an important consideration for the Day Nursery, for children, parents and staff. A safety study has been conducted, which shows a number of shortcomings for all pedestrian users through a lack of maintenance and upgrades to the existing provisions. The safety study conducted has identified shortcomings in the current standard and safety of surrounding pedestrian routes effecting all pedestrians in the Hawley Green area. Major deficiencies identified included:
- Deficiencies in the existing kerb drop provision on B3272 Hawley Road between the A30 and Fernhill Road Junction
- The single pavement from Green Lane and the Fernhill Junction falls below the current design standards and has lacked maintenance. This section is used by children and parents walking to Hawley Primary School.
- The crossing point on the B3272 between Green Lane and Hawley Green is constantly used by the local community and has been signposted as a safe crossing point for over 25 years. No maintenance has been performed by Hampshire County Council Highways on the signage or on visibility restricting verge growth
- No attention has been paid to providing continuous access for disabled users of motorised scooters and wheelchairs.
Issues directly related to the safety of pedestrians travelling to the Day Nursery site are being actively pursued for rectification, and some changes can already be seen. However, many of these issues fall out of the scope of the Day Nursery project, but do have an ongoing impact on the local community. If you think that these should receive attention, you should raise them with your Councillors.
Unlike schools and pre-schools, day nurseries do not operate fixed arrival and departure times, resulting in a staggered traffic pattern. As an illustration, my grandchildren arrive at their day nursery at 7:30 am for breakfast and are collected at 4:30 as this fits with their parent’s work pattern as Teachers. Likewise other parents after 9:00 and collect at 6:00, particularly if both parents work and split drop off and pickup duties. As part of planning application, trip generation was modelled using an assumption that all children would be delivered by vehicle to create a worst case scenario. The subsequent Travel Plan submitted under planning condition requirements reduces this to an initial 68% reducing to 62% of trips in the 2nd year by vehicles due to trips being made by pedestrian and multi-modal methods enabled by the location of the Day Nursery.
Comparing the traffic volumes with Trip Rate Calculation accepted by Hampshire Highways provides visibility of the possible level of Nursery related traffic as a % of the measured Vehicle Volumes on Hawley Road:
- 0800 to 0900 – 3.1%
- 1700 to 1800 – 2.5%
- Daily (over 12 hour daytime period) – 1.2%
The site can be approached from a variety of directions and this asset can be used to avoid queues at the Fernhill Road junction traffic lights. Unfortunately the option of using the Memorial Hall car park was opposed by Blackwater & Hawley Town Council. This currently makes opportunities to work with Hawley Primary School over split sibling drop off and for parents to park and walk their children through the pedestrian path link impossible.