Pre-school set to move after church almost doubles rent

A Southend nursery has launched a crowdfunding campaign to find a new home after a church doubled their rent.

Little Bournes Green Pre-School hopes to raise £70,000 for a deposit on a permanent premises after the rent at St Augustine’s Church of England Church was increased from £1,200 to £2,400 a month.

Emma Martin has run the pre-school for 23 years and has been left furious by the proposed increase. The church insists it has provided subsidised rent for years.

Ms Martin said: “I’ve been running this pre-school for 23 years. We are on a reduced rent and they decided to put the rent up which would price us out.

“There are lots of costs involved and we can’t afford those costs. We rent for 30 hours a week which is a significant part of their income. We’re the only business operating here. The rest of the hall users would be things like yoga classes.”

The nursery says it has inspired children in their education, with some going on to achieve university degrees as adults.

Ms Martin has already given notice to the church and is hoping to get enough for a deposit for a commercial mortgage on Shoebury Evangelical Church in West Road.

She added: “You need three children to one staff member to make it work without all the other outgoings. The rent would have been more than a commercial mortgage.”

A spokesperson for St Augustine’s Church, Thorpe Bay said: “We understand the disappointment and frustration that has been caused by the ending of the rental agreement between Little Bournes Green Pre-School and St Augustine’s Church Hall.

“We have made extraordinary efforts to enable the pre-school to continue to use the hall, including providing them subsidised rent at significantly lower rates than other hall users. We also recognise the considerable pressures on businesses that operate pre-schools.

“As a church we have faced significant financial pressure, particularly because of rising prices and the rent we were charging the pre-school for the use of the hall, was no longer sustainable.”

Visit https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/littlebournesgreen

A spokesman for St Augustine’s Church has provided details of the rent increase for the nursery.

The new rate of £15 per hour equates to £90 per day from its currently £50 per day. The church also gives a 10 per cent discount for rent paid on time which the nursery does.

A March invoice of £1,200 was for four weeks and four days.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter