Honley Nursery

Portland Nurseries are a local, family run nursery provider who approached SWA in 2018 to design a purpose-built nursery on a brownfield site in Honley Village near Huddersfield. Portland Nurseries had chosen the site for its unique heritage and landscape features, which provided inspiration for our design response.

The brief for this project has been driven by Portland Nurseries’ Forest School ethos and the proposal includes childcare spaces with free-flow to the outdoors, staff spaces, a kitchen, and an outdoor dining area embedded in the landscape. The new nursery will provide quality learning spaces for children both indoors and outdoors with a focus on sustainability both in the lifestyle, operations and construction of the building.

The project gained planning permission at Committee in March 2021.

Client: Portland Nurseries
Planning: 2021
Cost: £1.2 million
Location: Honley, Huddersfield


“SWA provided us with an outstanding service from our initial meeting, through to our plans being approved. Their enthusiastic understanding of our brief and insight into our ethos was evident through their drawings and they were able to keep nature and sustainability at the heart of the design. Their knowledge of the design and planning application process was invaluable. A pleasure to work with. We would highly recommend.”

Anastasia Murphy, Managing Director, Portland Nurseries Limited


Portland Nurseries chose this site not only because of its proximity to Honley Village, but because they were captured by the unique quality of the space. Formerly a council depot, the site is located on the edge of Honley Village Conservation Area and sits adjacent the River Holme and a Grade 2 Listed bridge.

Retaining walls form the majority of the boundary edges of the site which are lined with trees and ivy making this small enclave perfect for a beautiful secret garden. To the south of the site a cylindrical stone retaining wall, previously a gas holder, forms a key feature and has informed the landscape strategy.


Portland Nurseries’ brief was for high quality childcare spaces indoor and out with a layout which would allow free-flow between the building and landscape.  We looked at a number of options for how the building and landscape might interact and respond to the site opportunities and constraints (see diagrams below). Simple models were used to test ideas and communicate options to our client, these included proposals which retained the existing Riverside building (see above).

Following detailed options studies developed with input from our consultant team, it was determined that retaining the Riverside building was not compatible with the client’s aspirations and critically, could not provide fully accessible site levels.

Diagrams highlighting site layout investigations

The new nursery is located centrally on the site, providing a civic presence facing the River and Village centre Conservation Area, with a landscape led approach and palette of natural materials connecting to the outdoor space.

Each childcare space has both a visual and physical connection directly into the landscape garden – allowing free flow from indoors to out.


Welly stores form part of this transition, offering spaces for changing when moving from the muddy outdoors to the indoor spaces. Full height windows and glazed doors stretch along the elevation to the childcare spaces to draw in the natural surroundings whilst providing excellent views and lots of natural light. On the 1st floor, the under 2s childcare space has access to a generous terrace with a large sheltered canopy and a stair leading down into the garden landscape.


An outdoor dining space constructed of timber frame and nestled within planted gabion retaining walls provides shelter for outdoor activities and a place for children to enjoy food made from onsite allotment gardens. To ensure children can be outside as much as possible, composting toilets are also proposed.

Section cutting through building and landscape proposal

On the front elevation, the Nursery projects a civic presence to the neighbourhood, echoing common features across the Conservation Area including fenestration details, traditional stone and a symmetrical façade. To the rear elevation, our proposal embraces the landscape setting using natural materials such as timber and a green roof to reflect the garden setting.

A palette of natural and sustainable materials was a key element in the client’s brief and in response to this, the building is designed to be constructed of Cross Laminated Timber with a fair faced finish internally.

Front entrance view of nursery building
View from garden dining structure looking back to nursery building

Portland Nurseries’ ethos around sustainability extends beyond the classroom, their kitchen offers healthy and delicious food, they strongly support staff learning and development with space designated for staff training and community events and they were keen that the building followed the same ethos. They understood the value of reducing embodied carbon and while capital costs may be higher, the longer-term costs of a fabric first approach outweighed these.


This project offers an exemplary way of providing high quality learning environments made possible through the collaboration of an aspirational and committed client and a design team focused around a shared ethos.