Monday, 21 June 2021

Parents to shut pre-school with closure of church hall

CHARVIL Pre-school is to fold as the hall where it meets is to be shut down.

The closure of Jubilee Hall in Park View Drive North will also affect the Charvil brownies and guides, Twyford Floral Group, the Reading Cigarette Card Group and children’s art club Busy Brushes.

The parochial church council of Sonning and Charvil, which owns the hall, is to close the building on December 31, saying it is no longer viable. It gave all the users a year’s notice.

The pre-school, which has five members of staff and 11 registered children, is to fold on May 26 as it already owes more than six months’ rent.

The decision was made by parents at an extraordinary general meeting last month after they failed to find a new venue.

The pre-school committee says that since being given notice, it has asked the church council and Charvil Parish Council about possible funding for new premises but was told by both that there was no money available. The only other option was to move to the pavilion at East Park Farm, which would need up to £20,000 to be spent on refurbishment to make it suitable to use.

The pre-school, which was saved from closure less than two years ago after a committee of parents stepped in to take charge, has also suffered from financial troubles.

Since the summer term, 23 of the 30 youngsters who used it have left to start school.

Johannes Burger, chairman of the committee, said: “The news about vacating Jubilee Hall had a detrimental effect because parents weren’t registering their children and we were struggling to get numbers.

“We tried everything to keep the pre-school open but to meet our financial obligations we needed to pay staff and rent arrears. We had to make the decision in February to either try to keep the pre-school open or close it. If we closed it we could keep going until the end of May so that’s what we decided.

“Obviously it’s sad news because there aren’t any other pre-schools within walking distance for parents.”

The church council said it had “bent over backwards” to help the pre-school but that continuing to finance and maintain the hall could put the future of the church at risk.

In a statement, Rev Jamie Taylor, vicar of Charvil and Sonning, and churchwarden Perry Mills said: “The church council has become increasingly concerned about the sustainability of the hall, not least because of the well-reported desire of the main user, the pre-school, to leave the site for the pavilion.

“A couple of years ago, following a request from the pre-school committee, we agreed to make available the annexe to be a permanent amenity solely for their use.

“This was done with the very best of intentions of helping the pre-school succeed, something that was in any case crucial to the future of the hall. However, there is no denying that this change has been to the serious detriment of the facility as a whole with unforeseen negative consequences.

“In September two significant and long-time users of the hall withdrew and we understand that a common reason is that multi-purpose usage has become increasingly unworkable alongside the pre-school.

“This, along with maintenance issues, has left the church council with no choice but to seek a different future for this site. As charity trustees, we cannot expose ourselves to the losses that are forecast on a building we have no need of and to do so would undermine the ministry of our church.

“In the coming months we will be seeking a new way forward, although no decisions have been taken yet.”

The church council said it hadn’t yet decided what to do with the building once it had closed.

The hall formerly housed St Patrick’s Church, which was closed in 2011 due to poor attendance. The following year it was renamed in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

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