‘I’m heartbroken’: 70 children booted out of nursery with nowhere to go weeks before Christmas

A nursery for 70 children and about 40 staff has been served an eviction notice just weeks before Christmas.

The Under One Roof nursery at the iO Centre in Armstrong Road, Woolwich, was told two weeks ago that it would have to find a new home as it fell victim to a messy land dispute between the landlord and the long leasehold owner.

Nursery owner Matt Milchard said he felt “utter sickness” at the decision and was heartbroken that his staff may lose their jobs as the holidays approach.

Matt Milchard has run Under One Roof nursery for nine years (Picture: Matt Milchard)

“I’m taking it very personally,” said Mr Milchard. “My staff are pouring their heart out. They’re asking ‘how will we afford Christmas? How will I pay my mortgage?’ They’re panicking.

“One family has said they will have to move house and leave the area if the nursery closes down as they cannot find child care anywhere else.”

Under One Roof only moved into the building in January after they were booted out from a different building on the same industrial park.

But the long leasehold owner, Bluepuffin Estates, threatened the landlord with court action if it did not evict the nursery over a claims of a breach in the agreement.

The long leaseholder claims a nursery is not a type of business allowed to operate in the unit (Picture: Matt Milchard)

Mr Milchard claimed the landlord feared losing the ownership of the building and was unable to match the legal firepower of Bluepuffin Estates, so accepted its demand to evict the nursery.

Bluepuffin Estates claims the original agreement meant the lot was categorised for “light industrial and storage”, despite planning permission from Greenwich council for it to setup as a nursery – which Bluepuffin Estates were aware of before the nursery moved in.

Earlier this year, the nursery claimed it was victim to “bully tactics” when Bluepuffin ordered it to remove a garden at the front of the premises used by children, or it would be demolished. A few days later Mr Milchard said he arrived at the nursery and the garden had been “destroyed”.


The nursery garden was destroyed after Bluepuffin Estates ordered the nursery to remove it (Picture: Matt Milchard)

One angry parent, Ben Manning, said: “We already had to fight so hard to get this place for them to do this is unbelievable. 

“We have full planning permission approved and yet this company seem hell bent in getting rid. They have destroyed the kids garden and toys, like seriously who does that?”

Mr Milchard claims at the centre of the dispute is Bluepuffin Estates owner James Rigby, who lives in Birmingham. Mr Rigby is also a director at Fisher German, the property managers of the building.

John Alston, who lives in Piedmont Road, Plumstead, has a two-year-old daughter who attends the nursery. He said: “If this eviction succeeds we are potentially going to be without child care for Evelyn and she would miss out on the dedicated early years learning she receives at the nursery as well as the social benefits of building friendships. 

“There is simply not enough nursery provision for families in Woolwich.  They’re building all these new flats but not taking into consideration the infrastructure to go with it, school, nurseries, doctors surgeries.”

Simon Goligher, another parent whose daughter attends the nursery said the children were “traumatised” by seeing the garden torn down.

He said: “We as a family and a community of parents are absolutely devastated by what is happening.

“Childcare in our area is hugely over subscribed and this was the only nursery we could find in our area that was flexible enough to work with my wife’s shifts as an A&E nurse for the NHS.”

A spokesman for Fisher German said: “We are aware that there have been ongoing issues between Bluepuffin Estates Ltd and one of the long leaseholders on the estate concerning the use of its unit.

The leaseholder allowed the unit to be occupied by Under One Roof (Kids) Ltd as a nursery, which directly breaches the terms of the lease agreement between Bluepuffin Estates Ltd and the leaseholder.

“Bluepuffin Estates Ltd is not the nursery’s landlord, it is the long leaseholder which is the actual nursery landlord who has agreed that they will vacate.

“We can confirm that an agreement has been reached between the two parties and the use of the unit is to be returned to that required by the industrial estate.”

A spokesman for Greenwich council said: “We can confirm that planning permission was granted by area committee in February 2022 for the premises to be used as a nursery.

“This is a matter between the nursery and its landlord. We are looking at how we can support the nursery and the families impacted.”

Pictured top: Under One Roof Nursery and owner Matt Milchard with his children, from left, Oliver, India and Spencer Milchard who all attended the nursery (Picture: Matt Milchard)

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