RESIDENTS of Bishops Lydeard feel their pleas for funding to turn a disused building into an expanded nursery for the village have fallen on deaf ears.

James Dakin, Executive Headteacher at Bishops Lydeard Church School, feels the 'old headteacher's house' on the school grounds could be converted into a much-needed larger nursery.

"The ‘old’ headteacher's house, which has been sealed off and unused for the past decade, presents a significant opportunity to enhance our school and community offer," Mr Dakin said.

"However, the house requires substantial investment to transform it into a usable and high-quality learning environment.

"We are excited about the possibilities this space offers, including the expansion of our nursery provision and the creation of a community space where local groups can meet and run activities."

After members of the Bishops Lydeard Residents Action Group surveyed the building, it was deemed an 'incredible opportunity' to improve upon the village's current and only nursery, which is deemed undersized, and only open between 9am and 3pm.

“It’s barely covering statutory requirements, it’s a single room," said Paul Wheatley, member of the local action group and the Bishops Lydeard School Association (BLSA).

“The facilities aren’t up to scratch - the service is, but the facilities aren’t good enough.

"These are key infrastructure projects.”

After the public were consulted on the plans, feedback was 'overwhelmingly positive', according to Mr Dakin, who added that the local community 'fully supports' the potential development.

The Bath and Wells Academy agreed to grant the school £125,000 to help renovate the historic building, however a further £125,000 is still needed to secure the project's future.

Bishops Lydeard Church School then applied for for funding from the parish council’s Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) which totals £800,000.

However, Mr Wheatley and Philip Durban - also a member of the Bishops Lydeard Residents Action Group - feel the school's pleas for funding are not being taken seriously by the parish council.

In particular, members of the action group felt confused when they learned a sum of over £450,000 had been earmarked for proposed traffic calming measures in the village, something they do not feel is as vital as the improved nursery service.

In addition to this, the action group stated £72,000 of the CIL money was given to the local cricket club without public consultation.

At Bishops Lydeard Parish Council's Annual Parish Meeting on Wednesday, May 8, it was noted that parents of pre-school children have to drive to Taunton to drop their children off at a suitable facility, and that the cars involved added to the traffic problems in the village.

It was also questioned why the Chair, Cllr Clive Martin, is still in place when he ‘lost’ a confidence vote at the last parish meeting

At the end of the meeting, Mr Durban forced a vote on whether the nursery plans should be supported, which all present voted in favour of, apart from two abstentions.

However, the parish council still remains to offer any money to fund the project.

School headteacher Mr Dakin explained that he has begun looking into additional funding streams and sources as a part of the school's due diligence process.

"We will continue to do this to secure the best provision for our school and the community," he said.

Mr Dakin added: "We do not have information or wish to make assumptions about the need for traffic calming measures in relation to our application.

"We trust the parish council will follow their due process, debate its merits in a fair and open manner, and make a decision in the best interest of our community."

In response to the situation, Parish Council Clerk Neal Gossage, said an 'anticipated' decision on the plans will be made later this year.

"The parish council holds significant Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funds which came from the developers of the new housing estate in the village," Mr Gossage said.

"Although some of the funds have been spent, no decisions have been made yet in relation to the remaining funds. 

"There are a number of ‘competing’ projects in the village for the funds and the parish council will make a decision in respect of the funds once it has undertaken the necessary due diligence on the various projects. 

"It is anticipated that decisions will be made later this year.

"A wide consultation was undertaken with residents on the Neighbourhood Plan and other consultations have taken place since then."