CHILDCARE in Darlington is poised to receive a big boost with the opening of a 41-place nursery.

The neighbourhood nursery, on a heritage site near the town's railway centre and museum, opens next month as part of a £1m development in the North Road area.

Managers said it would offer affordable childcare to support parents who wanted to try further education, training or employment.

The project, which is the first of its kind in the town, is being funded by Darlington Borough Council with the help of a grant from the Building Neighbourhood Nurseries Lottery Fund.

The £59,000 grant was backed up by additional funding to run the nursery for three years.

The scheme, developed by Darlington Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership will see Kids&Co, the Darlington Borough Council's childcare provider, working in partnership with the SureStart programme.

Youngsters will attend the nursery in the SureStart building, which will also provide services including health visiting, midwifery, adult learning, family support and childcare, plus a range of other health and family-related services.

Councillor Stephen Harker, the council's cabinet member for education, said: "This is a really exciting project. We will have first-class, affordable facilities and a level of support for parents that will enable them to continue their own education or employment."

Mark Matthew, SureStart local programme operations manager, said: "The families who have been involved with SureStart and SureStart staff are looking forward to the opening of what will be an excellent community facility."

The Darlington Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership provides early years education and childcare places for children from birth up to 14 in Darlington.

It is one of 150 in England implementing a national childcare strategy.