Little Fingers Pre-school and Vernham Dean Parish Council Consultation
Wednesday 1st May held at the Millennium Hall in Vernham Dean at 7:30pm
The event had been advertised in the April edition of Focus Magazine and on social media
(FaceBook). In addition, Little Fingers Pre-school’s parents/guardians had been made aware of the event and invited.
It is estimated that there were approximately 35 people in attendance.
The design boards were displayed at the back of the Millennium Hall for all to see.
A comments book was circulated and attendees were encouraged to sign it and write down any comments they may have, either positive or negative.
(The notes below were taken as a record of the general discussion of the public meeting and are intended to show the tone of the discussion. They should not be taken as a statement of any organisations’ or individual’s comments.)
Richard Winch, the Chair of Vernham Dean Parish Council, opened the meeting and introduced Andrew Neal, Chair of Little Fingers Pre-school, Richard Edgecombe, Project Manager and Roger Whiteman, the architect from Beside Design.
Richard went on to say that on behalf of the Parish Council, there are two major benefits for the village and community. Firstly, being able to retain Little Fingers Pre-school which is an important and vital asset to the community and secondly, to have the opportunity to significantly expand the existing Pavilion assets. Richard Winch clarified that the Pavilion in its entirety, would remain an asset of the Parish Council
Andrew Neal introduced himself as the current Chair of Little Fingers Pre-school, since October 2018. Andrew went on to say that he had essentially inherited the project, the idea of relocating the pre-school to the Pavilion having already been proposed to the Parish Council. Other options had been investigated, however, relocating to the Pavilion seemed the most sensible route to go in terms of utilising a building that has an existing footprint and good parking facilities.
Having sought legal advice, once the planning application has been submitted and approved, and a legal structure put in place, then the money will need to be raised. Fundraising will not only take place in the local community but mainly through national organisations like the National Lottery, as a significant amount is required.
Andrew then went on to give reasons why they have decided to move the pre-school from the existing location at the Gospel Hall.
- Security of long term future To date the trustees of the Gospel Hall have allowed the preschool to use the facility. However, it is owned by beneficial charities who will ultimately want to make capital from the building.
- Safety of the Gospel Hall site Idea of moving somewhere which has adequate parking and outdoor space away from the road is extremely attractive.
- More green space Utilising the countryside around for the early education.
- A purpose- built environment Having both appropriate inside and outdoor facilities and storage.
- Not only securing the future of LF but allowing it to flourish Both in terms of proving an important facility for the next generation but also employment opportunities for the local community.
Andrew concluded by thanking the local communities for their continued support.
Roger Whiteman from Beside Design then introduced himself as the architect working on the project and continued to confirm the process.
- Identify the right location for the building
- Discuss with the pre-school the type of facility required and how it is to function.
- Look at aspects that influence a project ie. bat surgery, tree survey, flood risk assessment.
Roger then went on to discuss the location of the building. The current facility is underused, and sits unused for 80% of the week, with the main patrons being the football club at the weekends This is therefore an opportunity to do something to the site to improve is usage.
Regarding the inside space, currently the only entrance takes you into the main hall where the changing rooms can be accessed, along with the kitchen. The challenge for the architect was how to link the new and existing building.
Having investigated various design options, the preferred option is to locate the new building to the left of the existing building and provide a focus for the entrance. Currently the Pavilion is symmetrical, and the new building proposal is asymmetrical with a symmetrical entrance.
The design is a simple, modern barn-like structure.
There is an existing carpark – which at certain times of the day is busy as it is used by the primary school, during term time for dropping off children (for 9:00am) in the morning and picking them up (at 3:30pm) in the afternoon. At weekends it is used by the Sports Pavilion. The carpark is not marked out however, if the carpark is marked out using the regulations as set out by the local council for both the primary school and the pre-school and the number of pupils each of the educational institutions can take as a maximum – only 40 car parking spaces are required.
There is a benefit that there are people dropping off children at the pre-school that are also dropping off children at the primary school and that the pre-school’s hours are staggered. The drop off times for the pre-school are 8:30am, 9:00am, 9:15am, 9:30am, 10:00am and 12:00am. The pick-up times are 12:00pm, 12:30pm, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm and 3:30pm. The most popular time to pick up is 3:00pm.
The bicycle racks are a requirement of the planners. We must provide sufficient bicycle space for staff, children, users of the MUGA and Sports Pavilion.
A footpath will be created to run from the car parking area to the Pavilion with low level lighting to light the way in the darker, winter months.
Roger then went on to discuss how the building is to be organised.
A ‘garden’ space has been created outside the main hall with shrubs, seating etc – to be used by the children as an outside learning area, or somewhere to eat. There is a low-level fence with a number of gates which can be opened up if there was a public event, giving access to a BBQ/tented area.
The new build is a self-contained unit and has a separate entrance to the Pavilion but also does have internal links into the main hall – which has the ability to be used in the day time and/or by the children for indoor activities if it is raining.
There is an all-weather soft surface to the side of the building. The existing storage room is to become the storage room for the pre-school. New, larger purpose-built storage units are situated towards the rear of the Pavilion.
The final area at the top is the woodland area. It is an outdoor teaching space, amongst the trees and has a fence around it to keep the children secure.
The benefits of having this design means that the sports fields are completely unaffected. There is no reduction in the playing area and no need to move the sports field.
Doors will be created at the rear of the building, leading from the changing rooms to a footpath taking the sports players to the sports field and afterwards, back in again using the doors leading directly into the changing rooms. That would keep the main hall clear and clean from muddy boots.
Windows have been included in the design which gives people in the pre-school the opportunity to look along the path, helping with security and likewise walking down the path, you would see a light on and activity within the building. There is also a large window on the front right- hand side corner giving a connection between the outside and the inside. Skylights have also been included in the design to create a feeling of health & wellbeing with the additional light.
From a security point of view, it is necessary to have one entrance/exit to the pre-school to control the safety and security of the children.
Roger concluded by presenting 3D drawings of the design and explained the various elements and how it links in with the existing building.
Richard Winch reiterated that the Vernham Dean Parish Council will own the Pavilion and the new structure. Currently the existing facility is underused. By improving the facility, it will attract more users and so create more revenue.
Richard Winch then invited questions from the attendees.
A parishioner requested an explanation about the proposed siting of the storage areas for the BBQ area and power points.
Roger Whiteman and Richard Edgecombe reported that the Playing Fields Association has given an indication of what storage space is required and the fact that it is recognised that the storage areas will have plumbing and electrical services. There is also an allowance within the electrical package to have heavy-duty external electrical sockets on the external walls of the building that can be used at public events or by anyone who hires the facility. There will also be a footpath leading to the storage area, at the rear of the building that will be covered.
A parishioner asked about the site of the heavy-duty electrical sockets, from a health and safety point of view at public events. He reminded the group that the annual firework night attracts up to 600 people and has raised up to £5,000.00 in recent years and that it is a significant village event in the fundraising calendar. All agreed it was an important event. The present arrangement works very well in terms of the BBQ area and access to the freezers. Group agreed to have a re-think as to how to manage this by identifying the security area and to re-work the space.
Roger Whiteman confirmed that there is potential to include a cupboard on the outside wall, that is completely separate to the pre-school and is secure and locked, to house external heavy-duty electrical sockets.
All agreed to look at the Health & Safety requirements and investigate where to situate the BBQ area. A parishioner suggested the MUGA. and another mentioned that as well as lighting/power, freezer access was required.
A parishioner requested some background to the statement that the current carpark can take 40 cars. He also raised a concern about the lighting in the carpark.
Richard Winch suggested that we look at illuminating the carpark area. Richard Edgecombe confirmed that electrics were being run from the Pavilion along the path and in fact they were looking at extending the lighting to the carpark.
A parishioner suggested that the footpath be extended up the side of the car park where the trees are and the skatepark ramp and so preventing people from walking through the carpark. All agreed that this was a good idea.
A parishioner highlighted the fact that there would be 140 children being dropped off at the same time and it was also mentioned that it wasn’t just children getting out of cars but sometimes there would be a pushchair involved. The parishioner went on to confirm that 75% of families come from outside the village. Andrew Neal went on to discuss the staggered drop off and pick up times at the pre-school. Andrew Neal also mentioned the traffic. With the pre-school being relocated to the Pavilion, this should stop cars going all the way through the village. Currently cars drive through the village to get to Little Fingers – where there is currently enough space for 7 cars to park safely.
Richard Edgecombe went on to reiterate the legal requirements for the car parking as set out by the local council and planning department.
A parishioner asked for clarification about the continued existence of the flood trench which was excavated after the 2014 flooding event. Richard Winch announced that there will be a public meeting in June to hear Hants CC’s plans for this and other village flood mitigation issues.
A parishioner asked roughly how much this project is anticipated to cost. Richard Edgecombe gave a very rough figure of between £300K and £400K, based on the anticipated square footage. A more detailed budget will be produced pending completion of final design and scope.
A parishioner asked if we had considered doing anything with the existing building with regard to solar panels for electricity and hot water. Andrew Neal confirmed that he was keen to use solar panelling – however it would come down to cost and the grant/funding applications, but aware that it would have a positive impact in terms of the Parish Council.
A parishioner pointed out that the existing building will look shabby next to the new
build. Richard Edgecombe confirmed that the existing building will be updated.
A parishioner requested clarification about the layout and felt that it was the wrong way round. Richard Edgecombe and Roger Whiteman explained that various design options had been fully investigated. The proposed scenario was the best layout – as we have to be mindful of the soakaway and the septic tank and moving the football pitch.
The parishioner then went on to ask why there was a gap between the MUGA and the new-build. Roger Whiteman explained it was for access however, there would be a secure gate.
A parishioner asked for an explanation about how the new extension would be connected to the current drainage system. Richard Edgecombe explained that we either take it into the existing drain or there is a fall-back position that we may have to put in a secondary man-hole and run a new feed.
A parishioner highlighted the new regulations in place when a new septic tank is built. Richard Edgecombe confirmed this fact. He also said that on checking with the Environment Agency, if we use the existing system and not modify it – it can stay as it is. If we have to change it, then we are faced with the new set of regulations.
Richard Winch confirmed that the design boards would be displayed in the George Inn until Monday 6th May, along with the comments book. This account of the meeting together with a selection of plans would also appear on the village website.
Richard Winch thanked everyone for coming and closed the meeting.
It was agreed that the meeting was well-attended and that many useful and relevant points had been raised by members of the public. These would be taken into consideration when producing the final design.
The overall response to the concept and design was extremely favourable. The comments book contained a typical entry:
‘Great idea and design. It should benefit the children and parents basing the educational facilities in one area. The village will benefit from removal of the playgroup to the edge of the village…and removing the hazards caused by the present parking arrangements.’