NURSERIES that look after hundreds of Oxfordshire youngsters have been taken over by a French childcare chain.

The Old Station Nursery group, which has six branches in the county plus an after-school club, has been bought by La Maison Bleue - an international company based 350 miles away in Paris.

Sarah Steel, who founded the Old Station nursery network in 2002, will remain its chief executive and hailed the deal as an 'exciting development.'

Its Oxfordshire operations run at Oxford Science Park, Bampton, Faringdon, Filkins near Carterton, Henley, Upper Heyford, Watlington, alongside two other nurseries in Warwickshire and Gloucestershire.

La Maison Bleue is one of the largest childcare groups in France and manages about 300 nurseries in the country as well as in neighbouring Switzerland and Luxembourg.

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The acquisition of The Old Station Nursery group represents its first foothold in the UK.

Sylvain Forestier, chief executive of La Maison Bleue said: "We have been impressed by The Old Station Nursery’s achievements its business focus on quality childcare.

"We highly value Sarah’s extensive experience in the sector and are delighted by the prospect of partnering with her and The Old Station Nursery team to create one of the UK's leading players in the childcare market.

"As our first acquisition in the UK, we are delighted to have taken our first steps into the UK market, and this represented a major development for our organisation."

Ms Steel added: “We are really pleased to be joining La Maison Bleue, as it allows us to build on all we have achieved over the last 16 years, whilst enjoying the support of a leading company, which is also focused on quality.

"It’s a really exciting move for us all at The Old Station Nursery and we look forward to working closely together.”

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Posting on the Old Station website last week, she added: "La Maison Bleue share our passion for really high quality care and are keen to help us to expand within the UK, retaining all that is good about what we do."

She said the takeover was an 'exciting development' but added that it was 'business as usual.'

This week The Old Station Nursery in Faringdon lodged plans with Vale of White Horse District Council to expand it facilities in Park Road

It outlines a proposal to expand into a 256sq metre disused engine shed outside its premises, once used to house trains.

The nursery hopes to transform it into a baby room, nappy changing room, milk kitchen, sensory room, offices, a staffroom and toilets, and connect it with the existing building. A decision is expected by April 22.