In this climate of austerity, increasing numbers of nurseries and schools are funding their own projects with privately funded investment and are shopping around keen to ‘buy more for their buck.’
In the case of Heighington Pre-School, Sarah Turfrey joined the small pre-school with just eight children that operated from the Jubilee Hall ten years ago and three years ago she took over as manager, now the Pre-School has 47 children aged between two and four years of age. Just 18 months ago, the chairman of the Parish Council announced that the Pre-School had outgrown the hall and informed Sarah that she would need to arrange alternative accommodation.
Sarah said: “Initially, I was devastated – where could we go? How would we fund it? I approached the village school and finally, last September when they became an academy with more autonomy, they agreed we could go on their land.
“The nursery had just £15,000 in its coffers at the time, so not a lot to establish a credible building with. I looked around at portable accommodation as this was the most cost-effective and flexible solution, but nobody I initially contacted could provide a quality building for that. Finally, I contacted a company called Portable Offices who agreed they could help with a refurbished unit and not only help with the unit but also with architect and planning support.”
Portable accommodation is one solution which offers a versatile and speedy alternative to traditional building methods, which can sometimes be expensive and disruptive. It has come a long way from the traditional pre-fab approach and can even mirror a traditional brick-built façade with an enduring longevity and a high degree of ‘kerb appeal.’
Sarah contacted her local authority but they had no budget available to help with her project. So, Sarah with the support and help from Staff and parents set about raising funds through village events and sponsorship activities.
She said: “We arranged sponsored walks, indulgence evenings, charity auctions, quiz nights. You name it and we did it – and quickly.”
She raised £20,000 which included a small amount of her private money and managed to get a tiny grant from the local authority to cover the connection of water and electric to the modular building and to fit out the kitchen with a cooker and fridge.
After an eight month process of planning permission, building control, flood risk assessments and ground works, a 117 sq metre nursery space was agreed for a two year period with an option to extend.
There are regulations on the size of the premises required. They should be at least 3.5m square per child under the age of two, at least 2.5m square per child aged two and at least 2.3m square per child aged three to seven. It goes without saying that the accommodation needs to meet various hygiene and cleanliness standards.
Unfortunately, as with so many building projects, a bombshell was dropped on Sarah’s plans some way down the line. Sarah explains: “We were going for a unit that was flush with the ground but then the planning department advised us that we were on a potential flood plain so the cabin had to be raised which involved steps and ramps. This meant an additional £8,000 added to our costs. We are still fundraising and with the help of people in the village hope to clear that additional cost.”
When the portable building recently arrived on site the large crane and the lorries carrying the building soon attracted the attention of most of the village and the Pre-School children and staff came to see the erection and cheer the construction team on.
“It was beautifully refurbished – immaculate, light, bright and warm complete with baby toilets and small hand basins with a new fitted kitchen and new lighting, decorated throughout with new flooring and a cosy corner where a sofa now sits. We are all truly delighted with the finished building,” Sarah said.
Sarah is rightly proud of what she and the village have achieved: “We are so pleased that we have done it all ourselves and feel there is no compromise in the space and final fitments of the Pre-School.” The Pre-School opens this September.
“Initially, some of the parents expressed some reservations about the prospect of portable accommodation, no doubt imagining a scruffy, damp cabin. The reality is miles away from this outdated perception. Instead, the building is quite state-of-the-art and provides a clean, warm bright environment which encourages the children’s creativity.”
Portable Offices’ Business Development Manager, Dean Dixon, managed the project, providing a turnkey solution for the nursery covering planning liaison, foundations, drainage, services, logistics, construction and fitting out of all internal fixtures and fittings right down to final building inspection and completion certificates.
Dean commented: “We are accustomed to working alongside our clients and endeavour to make any project effortless and minimise hassle.”