Leading Shropshire nursery school given opportunity to expand

A £1.5 million fund launched a year ago in order to breathe new life in to redundant buildings across Herefordshire and Shropshire, is celebrating its first year with the announcement that grants totalling over half a million pounds have already been awarded, and in the region of 110 new jobs will be created as a result.  

The Marches Redundant Building Grant Scheme (RBG) was launched to give small businesses and start-ups across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin the opportunity to bid for grants that would bring unused buildings back into productive economic use.  In the twelve months since its launch, 19 grants have been awarded across projects as diverse as the conversion of a pig barn to office use, another barn being converted to house a mail order retail company, and currently in progress, the expansion of leading Shropshire-based nursery Farm Friends.

Lucy and David Cartwright are Directors of Farm Friends Limited, a children’s nursery based in Condover, five miles south of Shrewsbury.  They established the business in 2005 when Lucy converted a redundant farm building at Home Farm, owned by her father in law.  Five years later the nursery expanded further allowing for the provision of an after school club.

Currently employing 15 staff, caring for children from three months to 11 years, the nursery is already fully booked three days a week through to September 2013, and with the gradual introduction of government funding for two year olds, Lucy has seen the opportunity for further expansion, as she explains: “The growth of Farm Friends over the last eight years has been phenomenal and we see no signs of this abating, especially with additional government funding likely to drive demand.  Add to this the increased need and desire of many parents to return to work, and we have every confidence that there is a need to expand our facilities.

“The further expansion of our facilities, this time via the transformation of a former silage shed, will allow us to offer far greater variety of activities and will provide the pre-school class with free-flow in/out play options.  

“The application process was incredibly straight-forward and in spite of the difficulties we’ve faced with the weather in recent weeks, we’re on target to open the new building in May of this year.  Already we’re recruiting two new staff and expect to create at least three further jobs in the coming years as a direct result of this expansion.”

Speaking on the first anniversary of the scheme, Chairman of the Marches LEP, Dr Geoffrey Davies said “A year on from the launch of the Marches Redundant Buildings Grant, it is hugely pleasing to see how many businesses it has already helped, the jobs it has created and, of course, the new life it has breathed in to otherwise neglected buildings.

“What is so encouraging with a project like this is that it not only will directly create a number of new jobs, but will also provide childcare that enables parents to return to work themselves.”

The 110 new jobs that will be created are comprised from 16 existing businesses which have been able to expand, and a further four businesses which have been started from scratch.  Of these, 12 are located across Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin.

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Pete White Pete White

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