Nursery hopes to move into vacant city church hall

St Paul's Community Hall in Magdalen Road could be brought back to use as a nursery by Little Squirrels Play Forest

St Paul's Community Hall in Magdalen Road could be brought back to use as a nursery by Little Squirrels Play Forest, pictured inset - Credit: Arnolds Keys/Archant

A large church hall could be reopened for city youngsters after its doors were shut during the Covid pandemic period.

St Paul's Community Hall, in Magdalen Road, closed in December 2020 after an Ofsted report raised concerns with the Little People's Montessori Nursery located there. 

But now Little Squirrels Play Forest has expressed an interest in moving into the brick building which dates back to the mid-1950s. 

A planning application has been submitted to the city council to confirm the lawful existing use of the church hall as a day nursery. 

Little Squirrels Play Forest has already agreed terms with the site owner to open the new nursery and bring the building back into use. 

St Paul's community hall, Norwich

Inside the former church hall. - Credit: Arnolds Keys

A planning statement prepared by Alan Irvine of Leathes Prior Solicitors says: "The new nursery will provide a much needed service to the community and will provide employment opportunities.

"The Valuation Office Agency’s website confirms that the site is rated for business rates as St Paul’s Nursery, thereby further confirming the use of the site as a day nursery." 

The former nursery previously located in the hall, Little People's Montessori Nursery, was issued with a 10-point plan of improvements needed by January 2021 by Ofsted.

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But it decided to close down instead having operated from 8am to 6pm for 50 weeks of the year.

The building - which has a distinctive tower - was used as a community hall until 2003 when it became used as a children's day nursery.

St Paul's community hall, Norwich

St Paul's Community Hall - Credit: Arnolds Keys

It was designed by well-known city architect JP Chaplin who built several modern church buildings in the area.

His new build replaced a derelict wooden mission hall dating from the 1890s which was proving too expensive to repair. 

City councillor Alex Catt (Green), who represents the Sewell ward, said: "We are happy to see St Paul's Hall will have a use for the community in the future following its closure in 2020 and it is good to see another school will be able to serve the area."

Alexander Catt, who was recently the victim of a homophobic attack in Norwich

City councillor Alex Catt - Credit: Alexander Catt

Little Squirrels Play Forest, Leathes Prior Solicitors and Ofsted have been contacted for comment.