The city is set to see its first outdoor nursery, after plans were approved to create the facility in Aberdeen’s Duthie Park.
The proposals, submitted by Aberdeen City Council at the end of last year, describe an “innovative” model allowing three and four-year-old children to “experience care and learning in the natural environment” of the park.
The green spaces and woodland, according to a statement attached to the application, would act as both playground and classroom for the children.
It says: “Self-directed play in an outdoor environment provides its participants the luxury of time; time to explore, time to struggle, time to try again, and time to celebrate accomplishments.”
The statement also references research saying outdoor play promotes health and neurological development in children, as well as improving their resilience and mental wellbeing.
Under the proposals, Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) will also be provided to vulnerable two-year-olds, while intensive family support will also be offered.
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If the plans go ahead as approved, the “base camp” of the nursery will be located at the East Gate Lodge, a B-listed 19th Century building.
A consultation comment from Historic Environment Scotland stated the heritage body was “content” with the plans for the lodge, while suggesting the planning authority might request a prior review of materials used for cladding – a condition that was included in the approval notice.
It is hoped the new outdoor nursery will help to satisfy the Scottish Government’s target of 1,140 hours of funded ELC provision for all eligible two-year-olds and all three and four-year-olds.
Engineers have taken ground and drainage surveys at the gate lodge site, and the contractors are looking at an autumn start and a summer finish for the project.
Councillor John Wheeler, the convener of Aberdeen City Council’s education committee, said: “I’m delighted that things are moving forward despite everything else that’s been going on with Covid.
“It’ll be great to see the provision opening next year.”