PARENTS are growing concerned over the future of their town as the sustainability of a children’s nursery has come into question.

Despite Somerset County Council working with Little Owls Nursey, based at All Saints Primary School, in Dulverton, to ensure it is sustainable, parents were told at a recent meeting with bosses that hours at the nursery will be cut from September.

Parents claim the nursery will only be open from 9am to 3.30pm during term time, instead of the current times of 8am to 6pm and say the cut could result in families with young children moving out of the town or facing lengthy journey times for childcare.

Parent Becky Fry said: “It’s serious. I’m concerned about the bigger issue for the town.

“People look for viable childcare options when they move.

“It’s very worrying to lots of parents – families are already moving away.

“These changes leave working parents and those hoping to restart work after having a child in an impossible situation as there is no equivalent service within a 35-minute drive - the closest alternative would be in Tiverton or Wiveliscombe.

“The long-term consequences will be felt in the whole community.”

Dan Barnett, head ranger at Exmoor National Park Authority, has two daughters, aged four and one, at the nursery.

He has concerns over care for his youngest and during school holidays.

He said: “My wife and I have lived in Dulverton for 10 years, we both have to work to pay the mortgage and we will have to consider whether we can continue to live in the town as, without any of out-of-school-hours service, we will struggle to make it work.”

Another parent, Emma Thomasson, said the cuts would be 'devastating'. 

She said: "We are full time working parents who live in Dulverton and part of the community here. 

"The changes to nursery hours are devastating and unworkable for us, we have two children who attend nursery full time and based on what has been proposed we would need to find different solutions for each of our children. 

"The nearest nursery that offers wraparound care adds 2 hours drive to the working day. 

"We do not feel the dramatic changes are necessary,  the nursery is busy and full on some days and the business case could be looked at differently to amalgamate nursery care with before and after school club and holiday club, something many other nurseries have successfully done. 

"This is a huge blow to our community, discourages new parents from returning to work."

Somerset County Council says other methods of childcare more suitable for the area are being explored.

“We understand the challenges facing childcare providers and are happy to work with them to try and find ways of being financially sustainable and that is what we’re doing in this case,” a spokesman said.

“No grant has been removed from the nursery. It recently received a grant from the Sustainability Fund. These grants help providers while they look for ways of being sustainable in the long-term and we are currently helping the nursery do that.

“We’re working hard to recruit and support more childminders across the county, including West Somerset, which offer another flexible childcare option for parents.”

Little Owls Nursery said that the County Council would respond on its behalf.