Finding suitable premises for your childcare business

When looking for a suitable premises for your childcare business there are certain things you need to consider. Below you will find guidance and advice to help you find the right premises for your business.

"All early year providers must have access to an outdoor play area which can benefit the children. If a setting does not have direct access to an outdoor play area then they must make arrangements for daily opportunities for outdoor play in an appropriate nearby location" EYFS

Finding Suitable Premises

It may take some time to find affordable, suitable premises in the location you have identified which will hopefully be in areas where the local authority have a need.

Ideally, you will want to find a premise that has a suitable outdoor play area. The EYFS Statutory Framework states that ‘all early years providers must have access to an outdoor play area which can benefit the children. If a setting does not have direct access to an outdoor play area, then they must make arrangements for daily opportunities for outdoor play in an appropriate nearby location, but we believe that children benefit greatly from having immediate access to outdoor play.

Even with the perfect building, the best staff, and the best organisation, no childcare setting will succeed if there are no parents needing childcare nearby. Your first step should always be finding an area where there is demand for childcare. Do check the Childcare Sufficiency Assessment (CSA) to know the area of need.

Finding suitable premises can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when planning to set up a day nursery. The lack of suitable sites and the high cost of property can mean that finding premises in some areas is a long and difficult task. We are unable to help you find suitable vacant premises. If we are informed of any potentially suitable property, it will be advertised on  The Hub

It is important that you review all the advice and guidance on becoming a childcare provider in Waltham Forest .

Visits to prospective premises in an area of need may be able to be arranged with the Early Years & Childcare team if we have the availability. The team can give advice on the suitability of the premises but this would not be carried out for every enquiry.

Childcare sufficiency Assessment (CSA) and the need for childcare

A Childcare Sufficiency Assessment (CSA) provides an overview of the local childcare market, comparing the supply of childcare in an area to the demand for childcare. Demand for childcare is based on the number of children in the area and the average national usage. By comparing supply with demand, we can see whether there is a requirement for more childcare in an area. Our latest Childcare Sufficiency Assessment has not been published yet, however, if you would like to know where we have a need for childcare places in the borough, please  contact the Place Development & Premises Manager.


Childcare Offer

What are you planning to offer? You should consider:

  • What age ranges will you offer care for? 
    • Babies?
    • Two-year olds?  
    • Three and four year olds?
  • What opening times will you offer?  It is worth researching the local need: Do parents need full day care, hours that fit within the school day or just mornings or afternoons?
  • What resources and equipment will you need? Budget for the costs of equipment.
  • What fees will you charge? How does this compare with other providers in the area? Have you completed a business plan? A business plan is vital as it helps you consider all aspects of your business in detail.
  • Pick up from schools?

Location, Size and Space

When deciding the number and ages of children you wish to be registered for, The EYFS Statutory framework for the early year’s foundation stage provides details regarding space allowances and premises.

The EYFS states the required individual space required per child is:

    • Under 2 Years require 3.5 m2 per child
    • 2 Year olds require 2.5 m2 per child
    • 3-5 Year olds require 2.3 m2 per child

PLEASE NOTE: These calculations should be based on the net or useable areas of the rooms used by the children, not including storage areas, thoroughfares, dedicated staff areas, cloakrooms, utility rooms, kitchens and toilets.

The number of children you can look after will depend upon the useable space inside your premises. The Early Years Statutory Framework includes a section called “Safety and suitability of premises, environment and equipment“. That section sets out how much space is needed for each child depending on their ages and other DFE requirements, however, also remember that there are other legal requirements outside of the DFE requirements regarding space etc. It is your duty to check.

You should consider:

  • available access for those with physical disabilities
  • storage space for your equipment
  • enough toilets & wash basins
  • access to daily outdoor play

 Other points to consider:

  • optimum group sizes, taking into account the required adult/child ratios for the different age groups and EYFS Welfare requirements for the maximum numbers of children in a group.
  • The facilities you will require for your chosen age group – e.g. a milk kitchen and a sleeping area for children under 2s.
  • Direct access to an outdoor play area or an appropriate nearby location that would enable you to provide daily opportunities for outdoor play for all children.
  • The location of your premises with reference to the availability of car parking and public transport links.
  • The closeness and proximity of residential properties with parents who are potential customers.
  • The closeness and proximity of any major companies who may have employees who are potential customers.
  • Does your proposed premises have a strong marketing feature: e.g. well-designed outdoor play area?
  • Is it near to local schools or other community buildings?
  • Who will your service be aimed at and will it be accessible for the children and families who will be using it? For example, will your setting be based in a town centre, close to a residential area, a commercial or industrial site or will it be a workplace setting?

Health and Safety and Premises Compliance 

In order to be funded to deliver the Free Early Education Entitlement (FEEE) childcare places in Waltham Forest, you must complete the Premises compliance check process

The Statutory premises compliance we are referring to fall under the hat of “The Health & Safety at Work Act” but also forms part of the local authority’s additional quality audits you must be approved for, before you can be offered a FEEE contract and FEEE funding. This is above and beyond any Ofsted requirements.

As an early years provider, you will need to ensure that your premises are safe and hygienic. It is important for you to be aware that there are a number of statutory requirements that you will need to meet around the actual premises compliance  as well as general H&S.

Once you find a suitable property you will need to ensure that the property meets with all premises statutory legislation. Do not assume that the landlord or owner of the property has this in place, as this is often not the case. You MUST read our Compliance Check 2 (CC2) self-assessment document  and discuss with the property owner/landlord to ensure these things are in place. If the landlord/owner does not provide copies of legally required certification, this is not a good sign, unless the terms & conditions of the lease make you legally responsible.

The local authority will require written evidence of full compliance and you will be ultimately responsible for obtaining them. Also, some of the compliance items within CC2 can highlight costly remedial works that are required, maybe even a complete re-wire, so you want to ensure you know up front before you sign a lease agreement so that you are not later hit with expensive costs.  Please be warned that failure to provide the necessary compliance document will mean the LA will not be able to approve you for any FEEE funding.

In the Premises compliance check, we would be reviewing the key statutory requirements which are, Fire Safety, Asbestos, Electrical Safety, Gas Safety and Water Safety. There will be other duties imposed on you, but these are the main key things we would expect providers to provide evidence for and have knowledge on.

As soon as you know that the property is right for you, we advise that you start the FEEE compliance process as this can take up to 8 weeks to be completed.

Types of Property

Whether you are building a new site, converting an existing building or using existing childcare premises or leasing/renting a venue, the site will need to meet the requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)


If you want to rent, make sure that you have a reasonable lease on the property. It may be very hard and sometimes expensive to move after only two or three years in a property.

Estate Agents can assist in finding premises, but you could also speak to schools that may be interested in opening nurseries or out of school care in their grounds. Find out about any vacant local authority and community buildings and speak to housing associations, parish councils and other community groups.

Do also consider properties such as sports pavilions, football or cricket clubs, scout halls and community halls. These buildings are often available during the daytime and your hire fees will help them and benefit the whole community.

In addition, opportunities may exist to lease or purchase properties under the control of the local authority or other organisations such as churches and housing associations. If you decide to register with local estate agents make sure you give them clear indications of the type of property you require. It’s also advisable to explore an area yourself and look for likely vacant buildings and try to find out who owns them.

Some Day nurseries are established in residential property and if you are considering doing the same, do read the planning guidance.


For many childcare providers the conversion of an existing building is one starting point. Before assessing what adaptations, a building will require to meet both planning and registration requirements and if they are feasible, it is crucial to ascertain whether there is an identified childcare demand in the area. This can influence the LA being able to fund free early years places.

It is important to contact the Early Years Team in order to find out what considerations are taken into account when assessing the potential suitability of a property for conversion to an early year’s day nursery.


If you're thinking about buying a property, then try a local estate agent who deals with commercial properties or try searching online but please be aware that Ofsted may sometimes decide a property is not suitable because of a lack of external play areas etc. You could also rent a commercial property but remember you may have pay VAT on top of the rent.

Commercial premises will need to have the correct planning Class of Use classification so you may need to apply for planning consent for a Change of Use (this should be a link and should take you to Planning Approval: Class of Use section)

Leasing a property

If a building is leased, you should consider:

  • the terms of the lease
  • break clauses
  • if alterations to the building can be made
  • the notice period

Further guidance on leading a property can be found on Code for leasing business premises 1st edition, February 2020 and renting a business property and tenant responsibilities

When choosing the type of property, you should consider:

  • Contacting other groups in your area with similar interest and ask them how they found their premises.
  • Walking around the area looking for vacant properties and find out the agent and who owns them.
  • Think about statutory, voluntary or charitable bodies that may have redundant buildings in your area. There may be empty shops, workshops, church halls, etc.
  • If you don’t want to open a nursery from scratch, you could look at modular nurseries. They are significantly cheaper and can be up and running very quickly. But they might not be popular with the local planning authorities – particularly if you are in a green belt area. So, before you make any investment, make sure that the local planning department will give approval for them.
  • If you are making structural alterations to a building that already exists, you will need to factor in several thousand pounds depending on its current state. The building might also require some work to bring it up to fire safety standards; for example, ensuring that you could evacuate all the children in an emergency or works relating to water safety (legionella), electrical safety etc. You should also ensure that there is adequate security, for example, extra locks on doors and windows to keep strangers out and children in.

Planning Approval: Class of Use

Planning permission is required for a new building, some alterations/extensions and for any existing building where there will be a change of use of the premises (e.g. where it has not previously been used for childcare or education). Planning permission application may be a time-consuming process that can be costly, so ensure you begin that planning process as soon as possible.

Commercial premises need to have the correct Class of Use classification, so in some circumstances, you may need to apply for planning consent for Change of Use.

To operate a childcare provision on non-domestic premises, the premises, you will need to ensure the property has the correct planning class of use planning approval. The property MUST have the correct class of use before you can legally operate childcare from the premises.

You must ensure you check with the local authority planning and building control what the current class of use is for the property and if necessary, submit a change of use planning application to have the property fall under the correct class for its proposed use. 

Do not assume you can run your childcare business from the premises, even if you acquire premises with the correct Class of Use from a pre-existing planning permission; please check the conditions of your consent with planning to ensure the use is lawful. There have been cases where conditions previously set would not allow certain early years childcare activities on the site.

It is best to obtain written confirmation that the building can be used for early years childcare before agreeing to buy or signing a lease.

Download the guidance on Planning and Building Regulations for Early Years Providers.

Cost of premises

Setting up a new childcare business can be very expensive. Consider all the different costs vs the potential income to see if your business is viable.

Consider the cost of:

  • buying or leasing your property
  • planning permission and any building changes, e.g. structural changes, additional toilets, improved security
  • resources such as toys, kitchen supplies, safety equipment
  • additional staff
  • repairs and maintenance
  • utility bills and business rates

Pack Away Nurseries

A pack away nursery is one where you share your venue, so you have to set up and pack away all your resources at the beginning and end of the day, ready for use by someone else, such as a community centre or sports pavilion.

In setting up a pack away nursery, you must consider:

  • the additional work required to set up and pack away
  • the additional resources (e.g. staffs) required to set up and pack away
  • the additional cost e.g. staff salary and rent
  • storage for resources
  • time required
  • security of property to ensure that no one can enter without permission.
Last update: Thursday 5th of May 2022 10:48:53 AM