Community nursery facing closure as fundraising falters

Emma Dawson plays with Alfie Joyce, left, and Oscar Gerring at The Windmill Nursery

Emma Dawson plays with Alfie Joyce, left, and Oscar Gerring at The Windmill Nursery

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

A COMMUNITY-run nursery fears it may have to close after 26 years unless it can raise £50,000.

Windmill Nursery in East Challow, Wantage, is run by a committee of volunteers and two staff.

At the moment, its 18 pupils are taught in a portable building, but that arrangment must end soon.

When the temporary building was due to be decommissioned at the end of its life three years ago, Vale of White Horse District Council granted an extension, buying staff time to raise money for a new home.

That extension expires in August, but so far staff have only managed to raise £20,000.

They would need another £50,000 just to get another temporary building, let alone a permanent one.

Fundraising attempts have including auctioning a hubcap from a Williams F1 racing car, made in nearby Grove.

Oxford Mail:

  • Donna Wheeler

Committee chairman Donna Wheeler, whose three children all went to Windmill, said: “Our business plan was geared towards achieving some support from Oxfordshire County Council.

“Not only was that unsuccessful, but the four-month wait for them to announce their decision has cost us time we could have been fundraising.

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“We have always had good Ofsted reports and we are all passionate about keeping it open.

“Windmill is a safe environment for children to come, with old-fashioned values, and other, bigger, nurseries don’t have that personal touch.” Mrs Wheeler, 35, who lives in East Challow, added: “We have all these houses being built in the Challows, we need a nursery to stay open for them.”

In May last year, 230 residents signed a petition opposing a new, 50-home estate on land opposite the village primary school, St Nicholas, and the nursery, which share a site.

Another, 71-home estate is being built on the former Nalder Industrial estate on the other side of the village and housing developer Cala is currently drawing up plans for 40 homes on a field between Wantage and East Challow.

East Challow has about 300 homes, so the potential total of 161 new homes, would increase the size of the village by almost 50 per cent.

East Challow Parish Council member Charles Purnell said: “The Vale council is approving planning permissions for large developments across the area, but where is the infrastructure or facilities to help make these things sustainable?

“To lose this nursery now would be devastating to the current and future parents of children in the village and surrounding areas.”

Windmill Nursery was created in 1986 after villagers were concerned about a lack of provision for small children of struggling parents.

  • See the nursery website, thewindmillnursery.co.uk, if you can help

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