16 August 2002

Nursery fits the diversification bill

AN Oxfordshire estate has built a state-of-the-art nursery school as its latest diversification venture.

The school, which opened its doors last month, has been let to Bramleys Nurseries, who describe it as their "flagship" site.

The 3000ha (7500-acre) Lockinge Estate, owned by the Loyd family, is now home to 50 businesses ranging from 200sq ft to the 5000sq ft nursery.

The farm building conversion work began in the 1970s, providing workshop, office and retail accommodation. "It started with a few small craft workshops," says estate manager, Julian Sayers, of surveying firm Adkin. "It evolved from there."

The nursery – which can take over 100 children up to five years old – is one of the many businesses situated here, including a phone company, a PR firm, a web designer and a furniture restorer. Together, the businesses and the estate employ more than 300 people.

The developments have, says Mr Sayers, met the villages need for jobs, housing and a sense of community, while enabling the estate to survive, grow and foster that sense of community.

For new nursery tenant Bramleys, the rural location is a big plus. "The children absolutely love it," says Sue Watson, operations director of this Oxfordshire-based family business. "Already its home."

Next door to the site is 54ha (135 acres) of community woodland. "Its a lovely place for children to grow up."

It may be a lovely place, but, behind the scenes, it involves a lot of hard work, says Sue. "Everything has got to be right all the time. You are taking care of somebodys most precious possession, after all."

Tim Relf

LOCKINGE ESTATE

&#8226 Workshop rents range from £5/sq ft to £10/sq ft.

&#8226 Offices from £15/sq ft to £23/sq ft.