Parents and NHS chiefs clash at heated meeting over Chesterfield nursery closure

Clare Farmer and Lauren Hucknall with their children who are upset about the nursery's closure.

Clare Farmer and Lauren Hucknall with their children who are upset about the nursery's closure.

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Parents and health chiefs locked horns during a heated debate over the closure of a long-running nursery.

The Sunshine Nursery, based at Walton Hospital, in Whitecotes Lane, Chesterfield, will shut on July 31 after 25 years.

Scores of parents blasted the controversial decision during a public meeting at the hospital last night.

William Jones, director of operations at Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s with a very heavy heart we’ve had to make this difficult decision.

“The nursery has seen thousands of babies, toddlers and young children through its doors and the staff have done a wonderful job over the years.

“It’s sad news for all concerned.”

Giving the reasons for the closure, Mr Jones said the nursery made a loss of £150,000 last year.

“Clearly this cannot be sustained and as an NHS organisation we need to focus our needs on providing high-quality health services for residents,” he added.

A number of angry parents said they now only had four months to find another nursery place for their children.

They voiced concern about the lack of nursery places in Chesterfield and said they were worried their youngsters would not receive the same quality of care elsewhere.

Claire Willetts said: “What are you going to do to support us?

“Four months’ notice is not enough.”

Mr Jones said: “We shared the news as soon as we could – we informed staff first then told parents the following morning.

“We will do everything we can to provide parents with support.”

Other parents wanted to know why there had not been a public consultation.

Mr Jones said: “The service is not part of our core business and we are not required to consult formally with the public on the service’s future.”

The trust insisted that the closure of Sunshine Nursery had nothing to do with its plans to knock down the disused western wing of Walton Hospital to make way for a new housing development.

As revealed by the Derbyshire Times earlier this week, up to 90 homes, including a new access road from Whitecotes Lane, would be built on the site after the demolition of the wing.

The trust also wants to build a new car park near to the hospital entrance, again with access from Whitecotes Lane, and extend its southern car park to create an extra 62 spaces.

The plans are currently being assessed by Chesterfield Borough Council.

Mr Jones said the proposals were not linked with the nursery’s closure.