Preschool chair hits back over South Glos handling of closure

September 04 2019
Preschool chair hits back over South Glos handling of closure

The chair of threatened Filton Park Preschool Playgroup has hit back over South Gloucestershire's approach to the likely closure of the facility.

The chair of threatened Filton Park Preschool Playgroup has hit back over South Gloucestershire's approach to the likely closure of the facility.
Adrian Reed, who has been chair for five years, said the council has been 'disinclined' to put discussions and meetings in writing.
He also said that previous claims, by Cllr Erica Williams, Cabinet Member for Schools, Skills and Employment, over council help with 'alternative' sites amounted to just two suggestions, both of which were unsuitable.
The preschool is facing closure at the end of the academic year 2019/20. It is understood the site will be sold by South Glos for development and the council has said they will be seeking to create preschool places within adjoining Charborough Road Primary, part of the Olympus Trust.
Local parents have said the loss of the preschool, one of just two similar in Filton, represented a serious loss of facilities for youngsters.
Earlier this summer parents and local councillors and activists turned out in force, pictured opposite, to support the preschool, which has said it would like to rebuild the 50-year-old building on the site.
Mr Reed said: "My position is that S Glos have been disingenuous throughout the period.
"There has been a disinclination to put anything discussed and agreed at meetings into print and this has been so for all of the 5 years of my chairing of the setting. We have had no written lease. I believe we have never had written notice of rental charges in advance of the following academic year. Generally the rental increases have been in the form of a retrospective notification well into the academic year.
"I inherited an understanding that land would be gifted to the setting in recognition of its 50 years on site but that it would be responsible for rebuilding when the time for demolition came
"It had never been put in writing to us but even at the latest meeting, the officer with whom we met agreed that she had seen this in the council’s records, even though she had to say that they were going to renege on it.
"We were only been able to continue beyond July 2018 as a result of an ultimatum from me that we would be closing at the end of that academic year unless we had an agreement to allow us to continue, and the same ultimatum had to be repeated to get a further extension for 2019/20.
"The council preferred not to put anything in writing but eventually it was passed further up the hierarchy until someone with enough ‘clout’ was able and willing to do so.
"On another front it has often been conceded in meetings that failure to put a proper heating system into the preschool building was a serious mistake as continued use of the site boiler that used to service three buildings in total, has cost the council a huge amount in running costs and should not have happened.
"Eventually it was agreed to put a new boiler into our building even though it would only have a couple of years at most of useful life, but this was never in writing. It was, in any case, a ridiculous state of affairs. There were the appropriate engineering visits and surveys but the outcome was that a collection of electrical heaters were installed, some in unsafe (for children) locations and not in conformity with the installation instructions. There were also not enough to provide the heat necessary for the forthcoming winter session and so a further installation exercise has been agreed to by the council. That is a fight still to be had, no doubt."
On the issue of alternative accommodation, Mr Reed said one suggestion was both unlikely and too far away while a local councillor had advised them to avoid the other.
He said: " At meetings early on in the process a member of staff no longer with the council suggested verbally two alternative sites.
"The first was Filton Hill Primary School site. However, owners Olympus Trust had already asked two preschools in the previous 3 years to leave for whatever reasons and were not prepared to have a third on site.
In their veiw they were not sure that it was what they wanted to use their facilities for and if they did, they would be providing the facility themselves.
"For all of that, there is a walking distance of 1.20 miles in each direction for parents, a route crossing two main commuter routes and a near impossibility to use a car due to traffic in rush hours and one-way systems.
"It would be a ‘solution’ almost impossible for Filton Park residents to take up.
"The second was Filton Community Centre.
"This had housed a preschool which had had to leave in very complex circumstances.
"The Centre would not have been available for the whole of the preschool week.
" Cllr Adam Monk strongly advised me not to even consider seeking a lease to operate at this site under these circumstances."
Cllr Williams was approached for a comment.
A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said: “The Council advised the preschool regarding alternative accommodation, making the suggestion on a number of sites. In particular, the Council suggested the preschool to consider the Community Centre as, given the facts available to the Council at the time, it was deemed to be the most suitable option.
 “Our efforts in finding suitable spaces that were available can only be successful if followed up by the preschool going to look at sites, but unfortunately in this instance it was made clear they would not be considered.”
Last month Cllr Williams said: "The Council’s plans for development of the Charborough Road site have been shared with Filton Park Preschool for some time.
“Following the preschool’s unsuccessful investigation into options for funding the delivery of new permanent facilities, the Council helped to identify local, suitable alternative accommodation but this was deemed unacceptable by the preschool."Preschool chair hits back over South Glos handling of closure