A petition to save a purpose-built children’s centre from closing with just a few months’ notice has gained nearly 1,500 signatures as parents say the decision will make already stretched services in West Dulwich and Herne Hill even more over-subscribed.
Last month, Great North Wood Educational Trust announced Cherry Tree Children’s Centre in West Norwood will shut down by August this year as it can no longer afford to keep the purpose-built nursery and special educational needs children’s centre going.
The trust says the service will now merge with its other site at Rosendale School, in Herne Hill.
Shocked parents were left dismayed by the decision, saying it came out the blue with no consultation, especially given the long waiting lists for nursery places in the area, up to 24 months.
They say the move will also impact families in West Dulwich, Herne Hill and Gispy Hill who are already struggling with a lack of places.
A newly formed Cherry Tree Action Group’s petition to reverse the decision has gained more than 1,400 signatures.
Nick Acton, their spokesperson, said: “We are dismayed at the lack of clarity and adherence to council-published guidelines regarding the consultation over the future of our Children’s Centres in Lambeth and the future of Cherry Tree Children’s Centre.
“At no point were we or the community advised there was a threat of closure, in fact the opposite.
“We believe that due to its opaque management structure under the Great North Wood Education Trust/Rosendale Children’s Centre, Cherry Tree’s children and families have been denied their rightful voice.
“Cherry Tree is an exceptionally popular purpose-built childcare facility relied on by many families seeking both the free and affordable early years childcare on offer here.”
A spokesperson for the trust said the ‘difficult decision’ came with ‘great regret’ but it could no longer afford to run the service: “We believe that, by expanding the provision at Rosendale Children’s Centre and the presence of other high quality providers in the area, we can help parents to find alternative provision.”
MP Helen Hayes has lobbied Lambeth Council, which owns the building on Barston Road, to try and find a new provider.
“I am very concerned by the decision taken by the Great North Wood Educational Trust to close Cherry Tree nursery,” the Dulwich and West Norwood MP told the News.
“The availability of high quality, affordable childcare is a significant issue across my constituency, and Cherry Tree also plays a particularly important role in nursery provision for children with special educational needs.”
A Lambeth Council spokesman confirmed it would look at the ‘possibility’ of a new provider taking over the building.
“Cherry Tree is currently a school-run childcare facility and is not funded by Lambeth Council,” a spokesperson explained.
“Since converting to academy status, Rosendale School which runs Cherry Tree has faced significant financial pressure and can no longer afford to continue running childcare at the site.
“Childcare services are scheduled to end at the end of August 2019, to allow parents to make alternative arrangements
“Lambeth Council has worked with Rosendale school on trying to maintain this provision and will now look at alternative uses for the building in the future, including the possibility of a new childcare provider taking over the site.”
To sign the petition visit http://chng.it/7dtK5r4ttt