Controversial plans to close an early years centre and move the children to another service have been approved by the council’s Cabinet – despite objections raised by members of the public.

North Ayrshire Council plans to close Garnock Valley Early Years Centre and relocate provision to St Bridget’s Primary School Early Years Class in Kilbirnie. The £639,000 refurbishment project was approved by Cabinet on Tuesday, May 14.

The approval comes months after the Herald reported a St Bridget’s parent’s fears that toddlers would lose out on vital activities by expanding the centre. And of the 11 formal responses received by the council at the end of the public consultation period in March, eight people disagreed with the plans; while questions raised at a public meeting showed a number of concerns over the proposals.

Among these concerns, which were discussed at Cabinet, were: class sizes; loss of nursery-based provision for under twos; loss of separate rooms for wet and dry play; loss of dedicated transport for Garnock Valley Early Years kids; children’s safety as parents have to access the entrance via the school playground; and parents objecting to their children attending a facility which is part of a denominational school.

The council responded: “Children will have greater choice and ability to access a wider range of learning experiences. The set-up of the rooms will allow all types of play with different resources, furniture and equipment.

“The dedicated transport arrangement is unique to the Garnock Valley Early Years Centre and is not available at any other North Ayrshire early years facility. Only families, where the nearest early years facility is more than five miles from their home, are entitled to receive transport to their nearest facility.

“Parents were advised that the design proposal is still at an early stage in the process. The plans shown to the staff and parents were feasibility plans to show what could be achieved. Further consultation sessions will be planned once the outcome of the proposal is known. There is no catchment for early years provision and it is classed as non-denominational.”

Caroline Amos, Head of Service (Education), said following the Cabinet decision: “We will engage with staff, parents and carers as we progress the design and implementation of the new learning environment.

“We will take great care to ensure we meet the children’s learning, childcare, development, wellbeing and social needs.

“We believe that this proposed early years centre will result in the highest quality of care and learning, ensuring our children get the best possible start in life.”

Scottish Ministers will now be notified of the decision to progress the plans.