Dunbar: Mum’s hopes for new nursery in Masonic Hall

Dunbar: Mum’s hopes for new nursery in Masonic Hall

Dunbar Masonic Hall dates back to 1952 but, with a dwindling membership, new life could be breathed into the building.

Fifteen jobs could be created at a nursery looking after nearly 60 children if Debbie Bligh’s plans for the building get the go-ahead.

The mum-of-three highlighted the demand for such a facility in the town, saying: “There are so many families who cannot go back to work because they cannot get the childcare.

“I wished there was another nursery and thought I would do it.

“My husband helped and found the idea of the Masonic Hall.”

A design and access statement, which is with East Lothian Council’s planning department, outlines the current situation that the building is in.

The statement describes the venue as “very much underused due to the continued decline in membership of the Masons”.

The statement reads: “The building was previously used not only as meeting space for lodge members to carry out their business, but also a function suite for events.

“The decline in membership and lack of interest from new blood leaves the large sprawling building virtually unused, for sometimes weeks at a time, and is no longer fit for the purpose it once thrived under.

“The existing large spaces of the meeting room and function hall lend themselves particularly well for the proposed new use of childcare.”

Mrs Bligh, 40, was hopeful that the building could be transformed within a matter of weeks because there was “nothing extensive” needing done.

The childminder, who lives in the town with husband Elliot and children Bryson, six, Dalton, three, and one-year-old Ashlan, said that the response from the community to another potential nursery had been great.

Childcare for up to 58 youngsters up to the age of five could be provided between 7am and 7pm from Monday to Friday.

It is expected that seven full-time and eight part-time jobs could be created through the business.

The developer said that the change from the existing hall to a nursery would have “minimal impact” on the surrounding area, while also noting that professional childcare was “in dangerously short supply”.

Drawings included with the application show little in the way of changes at the building, off the town’s Belhaven Road.

Among the alterations is the back bar being converted into a staff room and meeting space.

Pippa Swan, chairwoman of Dunbar Community Council, noted that the town’s population had increased substantially in recent years.

She welcomed the plans from Mrs Bligh and said: “Our perception is that there really is a demand for high-quality nursery care and this venture is very much welcome.”

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East Lothian Courier
Cameron Ritchie

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