TEESDALE families are helping to plan a £385,000 children's centre.

The Government-run SureStart centre, due to open in an extension of Middleton-in-Teesdale Primary School, next March, is one of 30 children's centres being built in deprived and remote areas of County Durham over the next two years.

As well as offering full day care for under-fives, the centre will link with health, education and employment services to support older children and their parents.

A meeting of the Upper Teesdale Children's Centre Partnership heard yesterday that the project could be a golden opportunity for families - as long as it was properly planned.

Staff and governors at the school are suggesting changes to the proposed layout because of concerns about security and space.

Governor and father-of-two Colin Waite said: "There are mixed views, but we welcome it.

"It is a golden opportunity to have an extension that is going to incorporate different functions and offer new services.

"There are concerns about the layout of the building and they must be resolved to make sure the accommodation is right.

"We have a well-run school and to put a building on it that doesn't work would spoil what is there.

"We have expressed our concerns and don't think there is an impasse, but we want it to be right."

Tessa Evans, who has two daughters at the school, said: "I think it is good to bring together all the services, but what concerns me is that I don't want it to be a fragmented operation.

"If they get it right from the outset and have integrated services for children from birth to 13, it will work for parents.

"I am looking for services, especially childcare, that will provide a safe and stimulating environment for children of different age groups.

"If the Government wants parents to work, they should be looking at a quality experience for young people."

The partnership meets again on July 14 from 2pm to 3pm in Middleton Village Hall. Parents and community representatives are welcome. For more details, contact field officer Sean Ward on (01388) 761150.