The height of ignorance: High-rise nursery ordered to close after 53 safe years

Share this article

A NURSERY located on the top floor of an eight-storey block of flats is to be closed down amid health and safety fears, despite it operating for more than half a century without any problems.

Safety inspectors are worried about the emergency evacuation of the children if a fire broke out in the building as they would have to negotiate seven flights of stairs to escape.

Parents have accused education bosses of "pulling the wool over their eyes", saying they've been looking for an excuse to close it for years.

Westfield Court Nursery in Gorgie has been situated on the top floor of the block of flats since 1953 and, due to the nature of its location, is the subject of regular health and safety checks.

Teresa Catto-Smith, whose autistic daughter Grace attends the nursery, said the council has been "deliberately" reducing the roll in recent years.

She said: "They are calling it health and safety concerns due to emergency evacuation procedures, but that doesn't explain why the roll has been significantly reduced over the last three years.

"Westfield Court has been threatened consistently with closure over the past few years.

"Why all of a sudden is there a concern after safety when the nursery has been there since the 50s? They are trying to pull the wool over our eyes."

• Online poll: Do you agree with the move to shut the high-rise Westfield Court Nursery?

Vote now

Another parent, whose four-year-old son attends the nursery, said: "They have been wanting to shut this place down for a while.

"It's a lovely nursery and the staff are really good. It will be a great loss.

In the last two years the council's health and safety department has made recommendations regarding emergency evacuation, regular inspection of the building and the use of smoke detectors in the common stairwell.

Despite these safety improvements, the most recent inspection deemed that there were still serious concerns over the evacuation of pupils.

The Evening News revealed two weeks ago that Princess Elizabeth and High School Yards nurseries are both facing the axe under the council's rationalisation proposals.

Education bosses insist that shutting Westfield Court - which was on a closure hit-list in 2007 - is not linked to the rationalisation programme and say the nursery could potentially reopen in the future.

City education leader Marilyne MacLaren said: "Because of its situation, Westfield Court Nursery has been subject to special health and safety reviews for some time now and after each review we make adaptations and improvements to the building and to its safety procedures."The latest check revealed that there is nothing more we can do at this stage to address the fire risk associated with getting a large number of small children down seven flights of stairs from the top floor of the block.

"The only option open to our health and safety officers has been to recommend a decant to other nursery facilities."

"We have no option but to take their advice. I won't put the safety of children at risk."

Edinburgh's Labour leader Andrew Burns said: "Whilst I fully accept there are health and safety issues, the nursery has managed to survive for decades and I think that is just a smoke screen.

"They should have just had the guts to say that they are shutting three nurseries, not two, and I think the way they have handled this is cowardly and disgraceful."

Education officials recommend that children currently attending Westfield Court should be moved to either Tynecastle or Calderglen nurseries by the end of November.