COUNCIL chiefs are looking to purchase the former Irvine tax office in the hopes of apparently turning it into a nursery.

The Times understands North Ayrshire Council is hoping to buy Marress House – at a cost of around £400,000 – and transform it into an early years centre to keep up with the demand of the extended hours.

The two-storey, 11,797 sq ft building is listed on various commercial property websites for sale and for let – at a cost of £60,000 per year.

By August 2020 NAC has to provide all three and four-year-olds with 1140 hours of free childcare and are looking for facilities to accommodate those extra hours.

Some nurseries in North Ayrshire are already piloting the scheme and many early years centres are undergoing refurbishments to cope with the increased provision.

But sources have told the Times that if they are successful in their bid to buy the building they will transform it into a brand new early years centre to plug the gap.

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson confirmed they are looking to buy the building – but refused to say what it would be for.

He said: “We can confirm that we are considering the potential purchase of Marress House in Irvine but as proposals are still at an early stage, we cannot comment further.”

In addition to the expansion plans, it is expected that up to 170 new full-time equivalent posts will be created, mainly for early years practitioners.

That system is being piloted at Loudoun Montgomery, Abbey Early Years Centre and Castlepark Early Years Centre amongst others.

These centres were selected for early implementation as they are considered to be in areas of greatest need.

Redevelopment and expanded hours will then continue to be rolled out across North Ayrshire ahead of the full implementation of 1140 hours in August 2020.