Plans to expand a nursery in a busy road near Taylor Park to accommodate 60 children have been approved.
Susan Dyson from Daydreams Nursery, based on the corner of Prescot Road and Grosvenor Road, applied to St Helens Council to expand the business by converting the upstairs flat.
The ground floor of the building has been operating as a children’s nursery for more than two decades.
The first floor of the building is a residential flat currently occupied by Ms Dyson.
Planning permission was originally granted in 1997 to change the use of the ground floor to a children’s nursery, with the number of children restricted to 15.
In 1998, Ms Dyson successfully applied to allow for 31 children on the site.
She was then given permission from Ofsted to increase the number of children registered at the nursery to 49 in 2014.
However, planning permission was not applied for to vary planning permission, which means the nursery has been operating in breach of planning control.
The current application aims to regularise the breach and increase the numbers of children to 60 through the conversion of the first floor flat.
Daydreams currently employs 10 full-time and three part-time members of staff. It is intended that two additional members of staff will be taken on as a result of the expansion.
St Helens Council’s planning committee heard the application this week.
The committee was told the council has received 16 letters of objection from members of the public.
Objectors raised a range of concerns, including fears the development would increase traffic and exacerbate existing parking problems.
Melanie Hale, the council’s service manager for development, told the committee that Highways matters are of “principal concern”.
As part of the application, a senior transport officer from Highways investigated the site.
The Highways officer concluded that the proposal to increase the numbers from 31 to 60 children would not result in a “severe” impact on the highway network or have “unacceptable impact” on the highway safety and parking provision within the area.
A number of privacy concerns have been raised by residents caused by the existing first floor flat being made into a more public area.
However, the council report says it is not considered that these changes would result in a “significant loss of privacy” for neighbouring properties.
Residents have also raised concerns that the increased numbers of children would cause increased levels of noise and disturbance from outdoor play and from vehicles accessing the site.
The council’s environmental health officer has been consulted and raised no objection on the basis of unacceptable impacts on amenity from noise generated by the proposed development.
The council report concludes that the increase in the number of children as a result of the change of use of the whole building would “not result in a significant or harmful impact on amenity in the area”.
Labour’s Marlene Quinn, cabinet member for adult social care and former council leader Derek Long spoke against the application at the meeting in their capacity as a ward councillors for West Park.
Coun Long said: “Before this planning application was raised 16 months ago, I’d raised issues about the issues of parking and problems in the area.
“There was actually a collision with a vehicle adjacent to the nursery, which was to do with the over heating of the nursery area in terms of its congestion.
“Subsequently there are reports of parking all day on the actual junction across the road and also congestion reported back onto the Prescot Road junction during the lifetime of this application. So, this is not a straightforward location.”
Coun Long said the expansion would create additional pressure on a road already recognised as being under pressure and called for the planning committee to reject the application.
The applicant, Susan Dyson, told the committee car parking issues around Grosvenor Road, which serves the main entrance to Taylor Park, has “nothing to do with my nursery”.
She added that other businesses in Grosvenor Road, including Rathlee Nursery, do not have parking facilities.
Ms Dyson said: “At weekends the road is full of parked cars as the car park in Taylor Park is not big enough. My nursery is closed at weekends.
“Rathlee Nursery has extended by taking children upstairs. They have no car park. The bowling club does not have any car parking facilities.
“Five businesses in the area, we are the only business to create a car park at our own expense to provide a solution.”
Ms Hale said the use of the site as a nursery is long-established and therefore “acceptable in principal”.
Planning officers recommended that planning permission be granted subject to conditions.
St Helens Council’s planning committee unanimously approved the application, subject to conditions, following a vote.