We are so sad to say that Little Play Town is being closed down by the Council. We would like to thank every adult, baby and child that came to Little Play Town. I’ve loved seeing your reaction when you come in. All the wows! And the smiles, all the fun, the learning and the experiences that the kids and adults had. Creating Little Play Town was a dream come true and I’m forever grateful for every happy moment I’ve seen and every kind word to said to me. Thank you for sharing the Little Play Town experience with me and all the staff. I’ve tried to make every person feel welcomed and included and I’ve met some wonderful people, both big and little!
Sadly, our neighbours from downstairs reported us to the Council as soon as Little Play Town opened and have been campaigning to shut us down ever since we started. It has come to light after working diligently with the Council that the building has foundational issues and although we have tried every sound proof solution currently available in the U.K., we can not fix the foundations of the building. And as we can’t fix it, the landlord is evicting us to pre-empt any problems for himself.
We would like everyone to know that we had no idea that the building would provide issues when we signed the lease and we never had any intention to make a noise and upset anyone. The Council gave us a D2 recreational lease for a nursery. We do not make any noise that you would not expect from any child, baby or adult at any nursery across the U.K. and we did not at this point receive any objections from the 2 downstairs neighbours during our application. All parties knew exactly what we were going to do. We’ve been working every day for over a year to rectify the problems that the neighbours have subsequently had, but frustratingly the Council has turned down the planning application to put steel plates and pavement slabs in the building make the foundation stronger, so that it will be able to hold the very heavy soundproof floors which weigh 100kg per square meter. It’s a beautiful old listed building – the light is stunning and the first time I walked in I could imagine how lovely it would be to have a role play facility for little ones in the area and what a special place it would be for the children to enjoy.
We were completely unaware that and when anyone walks on the floors the noise could be heard below, especially when the building had previously been used as an office. We feel we have been treated very unfairly by some of those opposed to our business; we passed two professional sound testing tests and we are within normal limits for residential and commercial building regulations using our current padding solutions we have in place at present. But due to continual campaigning the Council have decided that these professional tests are not good enough. We feel it’s unfair that we pass testing but we are still not allowed to stay open due to opposition by vociferous individuals who are prominent in the community.
There is still one solution available that can save Little Play Town, and that’s to put a suspended ceiling in the gift store below. Structural engineers have been working closely with us in the past year: this solution can be put into place in 4 days and then the noise is gone. And we will pay for it all for the sake of continuing our special Little Play Town. We needed the approval for this situation from the gift store below, as this the only way to fix the building. But the individual in charge is refusing. And although the individual in question knows that we will be closed down and lose all our savings of 85K which will have a terrible impact upon our family, she has said in every meeting to us and the council that ‘it’s not her problem.’ We always wanted an amicable, mutually supportive relationship with our neighbours, but we feel they have been set against us from the start and just want us out whatever we do.
The final straw happened this week, when we emailed the gift store, the coffee shop owners, the Council and the landlord. We wanted to say that we have a party this Saturday with kids with disabilities, and that some noise might occur. We wanted to do the right thing and tell them as we didn’t want another complaint from the owners to the Council on Monday, so we though it best to inform them. Within the hour of receiving our email, the Council received a call from the gift store to complain. I really couldn’t believe it. At Little Play Town ALL kids are welcome. And for us to be told by the Council that ‘these” people – disabled kids – should not be let in at Little Play Town if they are going to cause more noise, I am flabbergasted. Demanding that we do ‘anything’ to prevent noise, even if it means to turn kids with disabilities away, is against everything we stand for and shows how irrational and narrow minded the opposition we have faced is. I believe role play is very beneficial for any child and my door has always been open to anyone that wishes to come in.
We’ve spoken to the MP, who is across the road from us. He has been invited a few times to come and see what Little Play Town offers the families of Odiham and surrounding communities, but so far he has shown no interest. We have also spoken to the Parish Council and the Councillors of Odiham. We have applied for a grant to help us pay for the floors the council wants us to put in which cost just under £20000, but were not successful. They have put us in an impossible position. We have 10 staff members at Little Play Town and all of us stand to lose our jobs. And most of my staff live in Odiham. Little Play Town is such an asset to the community and we could do so much more but for the entrenched, short sighted, and very personal opposition to us.
In the end, my husband tells me that my health is more important than the business which I love so much; having to be rushed off in an ambulance thinking that I’m having a heart attack over all the daily stress of the pass year, and getting heart palpitations daily when I enter Odiham, being afraid of entering the car park of my own business – all of it is just not worth it. We’ve come to realise that the neighbours weren’t willing to give us a chance and work with us – the first verbal attacks happened while I was still unpacking Little Play Town and we hadn’t even opened. Since then I have been attacked by the coffee shop owner and the police had to be called. After the police spoke to them they agreed that they will not enter Little Play Town again. But this hasn’t stopped me from always having to be on guard, always wondering if I will be attacked or intimidated again.I would like to thank the mom and child who were also verbally abused by the coffee shop owner, writing a statement to the police regarding the incident, as the same happened to me minutes later.
So here we are. We are not sure if we have 1 week, 2 weeks or 1 month left. I’m sure there will be a few that will be happy that we are gone, but I’m hoping that most of you will feel it is a loss and a shame. I have written this from the heart and I’ve never been very good at writing but I’m not going to edit this. We are good kind and honest people, and we have been trying very hard to fix this problem but we can only do so much but the 2 owners from downstairs have no intention of meeting us half way or at all of that matter. My kids want heir mommy back, as all they see is me crying every day.
So if you love Little Play Town, come and visit us for one last time. As I’m not sure for how much longer we will be here for. My heart is broken. I love Little Play Town and I’m struggling to come to term with this, but it’s been taken out of our hands. I hope you remember those moments with your children at Little Play Town as fondly as I do – I will miss you all. All the smiles and laughter. All the happiness.
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