Banbury nursery to celebrate re-opening – with a heartfelt thanks to the community

A much-loved Banbury nursery is set to reopen next month after almost exactly a year since a fire in the roof rendered the historical site in Horse Fair unfit for use.

By Matt Elofson
Wednesday, 22nd December 2021, 3:17 pm
Builders work on the roof of the Smart Tots Day Nursery building in the town centre of Banbury (Submitted photo)
Builders work on the roof of the Smart Tots Day Nursery building in the town centre of Banbury (Submitted photo)

Children will be welcomed back with open arms to see the newly refurbished Smart Tots Day Nursery when it reopens on Tuesday January 4, 2022.

A grand re-opening event will be held on Saturday January 15 to thank all those who have helped the nursery through a year without a permanent home.

For just over a year, the nursery has been overwhelmed by the incredible generosity of the local community, after the fire last December left the building and its interior badly damaged.

On top of the immediate support from the Banbury, Hook Norton and Deddington fire stations, ongoing help came from the team at nearby Whately Hall - with their staff rapidly and selflessly coming to the nursery’s aid – offering a safe and warm shelter for children and staff as the fire took hold across the road.

In the aftermath of the accident, Whately Hall made their facilities available for Smart Tots to install a makeshift nursery at the historic hotel, in turn helping many families, including key workers.

The event on the 15th will be a celebration and a thank-you to all those who’ve played a big part in helping the families and children of Smart Tots. The great effort at the time allowed the nursery to be back in action only three days after the fire, remaining open all this year at a temporary location in Horse Fair. The local fire service, the team at Whately Hall, members of the council, Smart Tots staff and other guests of honour are expected to be in attendance, with the mayor also making an appearance to officially commence proceedings.

Pav Bilkhu, the nursery manager of Smart Tots, said: “It feels like the past year has been building up to this and I know the children are so excited. They’re going to be amazed by the new nursery - we’ve installed a new wet play zone and have invested in the latest toys and equipment. We’ve got new everything and the entire layout of the building has changed to enable much easier communication and interaction between different activity areas. This is more than a revamp; it’s a complete rejuvenation!

“I’m proud of the level of quality care that we provide to the children. After the last 12 months, our priority is to create a relaxed environment where the children learn and grow through play. They will explore, be taught and learn through experiences every day."

Complete Childcare, the group that runs Smart Tots, were keen to turn the bad situation into a positive one, deciding to invest and upgrade the nursery rather than simply repair the fire damage.

Alec Hodson, director of Complete Childcare, said: “We can’t wait to welcome our children back in the new year. We’ve had the whole place refurbished and we’ve upgraded all our equipment too: new books, new resources and new play areas. We wanted to make sure we invested in high-quality, durable equipment that will give Smart Tots children lasting fun.

“Everyone has shown such fighting spirit throughout this enormously difficult period. The last 12 months have shown me that the community really cares about each other.

"Now it’s our turn to give back by giving these children and future generations of children all the support they need in their crucial early years. I’m really looking forward to our launch event on 15th January so we can say a proper thank you to all the amazing people who have been so generous and kind to us throughout.”

The launch event will take place between 1 and 3pm – the mayor of Banbury, Cllr Shaida Hussain, is expected to unveil the new site during an official ceremony at 2pm.