THE former Greenock Academy site is now being prepared to provide education for up to a hundred much younger children.
Education committee convener, Councillor Jim Clocherty, dug the first ceremonial piece of the ground yesterday to start work on a £3.35 million nursery to replace the current west end facilities for three to five-year-olds at Kelly Street and St Mary's Primary.
He said it would be the culmination of a 'journey' that started more than 20 years ago with children playing at the Loreto Club in Houston Street before parents petitioned the council to use its building in Kelly Street.
He said: "It's been a long journey, but it's been worth it. There has been a lack of nursery provision in the west end, but this will be addressed by this fabulous new facility.
“I'm delighted to see work starting on the new centre, and I'm sure parents and carers are excited at the prospect of such a modern and well-thought out building at the heart of their community.
"This will be a fantastic facility for children to begin their learning journey in those all-important early years before school."
Cllr Clocherty and his fellow west end councillors were all full of praise for the new centre, which is due to open in August next year.
Provost Martin Brennan said: "This will be an excellent centre that will relieve the pressure on St Mary's."
Cllr Elizabeth Robertson said: "It's significant that the site is being retained for an educational purpose. We talk about a nurturing Inverclyde, so this investment in early years learning is a crucial part of it."
Cllr Graeme Brooks added: "This is a positive contribution to the west end of Greenock. It's good to see this use being made of a famous site."
A third of the former Academy ground will be used for the nursery, with the remainder possibly being taken up for housing.
All three nursery playrooms – two accommodating 40 children and one for 20 – will have views out over the River Clyde.
The new centre is being delivered in partnership with 'hub West Scotland', a private sector development company who work in partnership with the public sector.
Chief executive, Iain Marley, said the latest project in Inverclyde Council’s £270 million schools estate programme has been designed to provide a high quality environment, and help realise Inverclyde and the Scottish Government’s commitment to expand the provision of nursery and childcare services.
The centre is being built Glasgow-based CCG (Scotland) Ltd, who are currently constructing the new £9.2m St Ninian’s Primary and refurbishing Moorfoot Primary in Gourock.
CCG director Calum Murray said: "The nursery has been designed to maximise the experience for children, and includes renewable energy technologies to minimise energy demand and maximise the building’s efficiency."
The Scottish Government is planning to increase funded nursery provision for eligible children from 600 hours a year to 1,140 from 2020, and Inverclyde Council is consulting parents and carers about how they would like this to be delivered.
The consultation runs until August 18 on the extra hours, and can be found at at
CAPTION: Artist's impression
George pic: From left: Mark Elison from architects Holmes Miller) Councillor Elizabeth Robertson, Councillor Martin Brennan, Iain Marley (hWS), Councillor Jim Clocherty, Councillor Graeme Brooks and Calum Murray (CCG).