PUDDLEDUCKS pre-school in Bath Road, Devizes, is closing after 27 years because of falling numbers.

The death blow was delivered by the announcement of a new nursery school being set up at St Peter's School next door.

Dominique Nursoo, a member of the pre-school committee, said that no-one blamed the school for taking this action. She said: "They are suffering from falling numbers as well and they need an income."

Puddleducks, originally known as North Ward Playgroup, was set up in 1976 by Marlene Hurd and Jill Jones and relied on voluntary help from mums and dads to prosper.

Mrs Nursoo said: "In those days everyone relied on help from the community but that is not so forthcoming nowadays. We would like to be able to stay open but there is no way we can compete with the new nursery."

Sandy Fletcher, headteacher of St Peter's School, said it was a great shame that Puddleducks was closing. She said: "We have been concerned over a number of years about falling numbers at the school and, of course, these hit the pre-school before us."

Because of the falling school roll, St Peter's governors had been looking at ways of using a redundant building at the school and hit on the idea of opening a nursery. Mrs Fletcher said: "We hope that a community nursery would draw in children from all over the town and they would stay on at St Peter's when the time came."

It is hoped the new nursery will open in September.