Back to the drawing board

Westminster and Rossmore Children's Centre in Ellesmere Port (above and left) was originally going to be an outreach centre, with services for parents being put on by staff who would be based elsewhere.

But now staff work from the centre and so, just two and a half years after it opened, the architects are coming back.

Jo Davies, the children's centre services co-ordinator, said: "The office accommodation is not appropriate. I have an office but the centre administrator has a room with four square metres of workspace, which is tiny. Cheshire County Council is aware of this and asked us what we need to make the whole centre better, a feasibility study is going to be done."

The centre is connected to a day nursery and a school. It has a creche room for baby and toddler groups, a consultation room and a training room for adult courses. The space for parents and children, particularly outside, has been praised by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. Its report said, "the intelligent design of the wonderful green play space" was an example of best practice.

But there are problems. A lack of storage makes it hard to keep tidy, buggies are left in the reception and there is nowhere to put away the centre's spare car seats.

Mrs Davies said sorting out such niggles was a minor issue compared to the benefits the centre had brought: "This is one of the most deprived areas in Cheshire; within this community over the past few years we've lost a post office, a bank, a supermarket. The one thing we've got is the children's centre. Parents say you can't buy a cauliflower on the Westminster estate, but there is a children's centre. There is a commitment to supporting their children. I don't mind working in crummy office space for the most part as long as parents are happy."

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