A CHILDREN'S play centre has reopened under new management following a six-month lockdown.

The Pickles Playhouse, in Crittall Road, Witham, is now under the ownership of Marie and Daniel Downes after they took over the centre earlier this year.

The playhouse will reopen today (Friday, September 18) after it was forced to close in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr and Mrs Downes have used the shutdown to make improvements to the centre and also plan to extend its opening hours to seven days a week.

They will also be introducing an 'after school dinner' session for weekdays.

A new cafe area has also been created inside the playhouse, where parents will be able to buy a selection of fresh homemade refreshments, including light meals.

The café will also provide a takeaway service.

Mrs Downes said: "As the only facility like it in Witham, we are passionate about making it a great experience for both the children who play here and the parents who visit with them.

"Covid restrictions require us to have a booking system, to limit the numbers who can use the centre at the same time and to institute a rigorous sanitising regime.

"All of this has been organised and I would encourage parents to book in as soon as possible, to avoid disappointment."

Witham MP Priti Patel was given a tour of the revamped playhouse and cut the ribbon to announce its reopening during a special ceremony.

She said: "The new Playhouse is a very high-quality play facility for young children, where they will be able to enjoy a variety of stimulating activities in a safe environment.

"I’m delighted that children in the Witham constituency will be able use this facility as this type of active play is so much better than long hours staring at tablets and computer games.

"I would encourage local people to give it their full support and I wish Pickles Playhouse every success in the future.”