Childcare centre faces uncertain future

Oxford Mail: Paula Foster Paula Foster

THE fate of a childcare centre in Kidlington rests in the hands of a gym that has been losing money for years.

Little Gems Childcare, based at London Oxford Airport, caters for airport staff and the Kidlington community, and has 30 children on its books.

Little Gems is owned and run by Kidlington residents Paula Foster, 55, and her partner Tim Jeffreys, 48, and offers all-day care for children from age five months.

It rents a room from Vida, a gym at the airport owned and run by flying school Oxford Aviation Academy (OAA).

The academy took over the gym from London Oxford Airport three years ago to cater for its students but it has been consistently making a loss.

London Oxford Airport is in negotiations with potential buyers for the gym, but with the lease running out in July it is a race against time.

If no new owner can be found or if the new owner decides not to sublet the room to Little Gems, the childcare facility will close.

Ms Foster said: “I am in shock. We were just starting to turn around and get more children, and suddenly it has been knocked from under me.

“I am absolutely devastated.

“Unless they find someone to take over the gym, we are going to lose everything we have built up and parents are going to have to find somebody else that can take their children.

“I have put two hard years and part of my pension into this and I am not going to go without a fight.”

She has been searching for other premises but is struggling to find anywhere with low enough rents.

OAA finance director Paul Cooper said: “We kept the gym open for our students and staff mainly. Before us the airport ran it and I believe they ran it at a loss. We tried to turn it around and have not been as successful as we would have liked.

“We are making quite a significant loss on the gym.”

Mr Cooper said OAA had asked London Oxford Airport to lower the rents and keep the gym on a short-term rolling lease to maintain the facility while the airport found a new owner, but he said the negotiations had “not gone particularly well”.

London Oxford Airport business development director James Dillon-Godfray said: “We are still in ongoing conversations with a number of interested parties who want to keep the gym going.

“It is an amenity that is useful and has been popular, and it is absolutely our wish that it continues.”

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