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A PRE-SCHOOL will close after nearly two decades due to the hall where is is based doubling its rent.

The Tops Foundation Pre-School, which is ran from the community centre in Salcott Crescent on the Wickmeadows Estate, will close its doors at the end of the summer term.

The pre-school rents the premises from the Wick Community Association.

Owner and manager Karen Hughes, 59, of Canewdon Close, Wickford, claims the “unsustainable” increase in rent has forced her to make the decision to close.

She said: “When I got the letter through I thought it was a typo but it was 100 per cent and we would lose some of our storage too. Fundraising for it would just be a sticking plaster - we might save it this year but what would happen the next?

“The mums have been amazing though, everyone is trying to think of a way to save it.”

Dozens of parents gathered at the centre yesterday to show support for the pre-school, which would have celebrated 20 years in September.

Victoria Palmer, 30, of Farne Drive, has one child, four-year-old Amelia, at the pre-school but had hoped to send her son, Charlie, one, there in a few years. She said: “We are frustrated and devastated for the community.

“There are other nurseries in the area but none which offer the same service on the Wick. Amelia has been accepted at Abacus Primary School nearby and if I have to take her there, then Charlie would be late to nursery everyday if he has to go elsewhere.”

Caroline Prior, 30, of Wallace Drive, hoped her daughter Ava-Grace, two, would go to the pre-school as her sister Ellie-Mae, five, had before.

She said: “It’s left a lot of parents stuck. It was such a nice pre-school too - Ellie-Mae came on in leaps and bounds there.”

But secretary of the Wick Community Association Lynne Brooker, 53, said the increase was not “unreasonable”, and that the centre could no longer afford to subsidise the rate.

She added: “We didn’t ask them to leave and we did offer staggered payments.”

A letter sent out by the association added: “The committee did not want to see the pre-school leave, however we must ensure rates that hirers pay cover the costs for the period of hire.

“This has been a difficult time for all concerned as the pre-school has been with the centre for 20 years. Knowing how important a pre-school is to the community we are seeking a replacement.”