FUNDING for a new preschool is under threat, sparking fears it could be forced to close.

Winter Gardens Preschool, in the grounds of Winter Gardens Primary School, Haven Road, Canvey, had planned to replace its current temporary facilities with a purpose-built £800,000 building.

Contracts were drawn up, a new teacher was appointed, planning permission was granted and work was set to start.

It was being funded by the Department for Education through Essex County Council.

But now the Department for Education has told the council it wants the money back for all early-years projects where work has not actually started on the ground.

There are now fears the preschool may have to close altogether as its current facilities will not last much longer.

Stephen Harris, Winter Gardens Primary’s headteacher said: “We’re in limbo at the moment. Our Ofsted was good, we were keen to expand our facilities, but now we just don’t know.

“The council is fighting for the money back and we hope to know very soon.”

The preschool, which caters for 57 children, had been based in a temporary classroom.

It was awarded funding for a new, bigger, building with specialist facilities including a kitchen area and a designated outdoor play area.

The plans were so far progressed, work had started to take down the old temporary classroom, meaning the toddlers are currently based in one of the primary school’s two halls.

Worried parents have collected an 80-name petition calling for the funding to be reinstated.

Chairman of governors Mark Williams said: “If the building finances are put on hold indefinitely, we would have to turn away children and the new member of staff would have to be made redundant. It could also affect the preschool as a whole as it cannot run in the present hall long term.”