Long-running playgroup could be left homeless

A PLAYGROUP which will have been going 50 years from September is facing the prospect of being homeless.

The Queens Road Playgroup currently operates from Tannery Drift First School in Royston, but cannot afford to pay rent for another year after prices almost doubled.

This has left parents and teachers alarmed at the possibility of not having a premises from which to hold classes.

Manager Judy Porto, who has worked at Queens Road for 21 years, said: “Not having a building would be a huge loss not just for us but for the community.

“It would be a huge shame as we are providing a service. Over the years thousands and thousands of local children have passed through here.

“We need to have a fixed home so we can continue but at the moment there is no way we can afford the increase in fees.”

Queens Road, which formed in Royston Methodist Church in 1962, paid a total of �5,950 for last year’s lease but that figure has risen to �10,142.

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This figure was described by Mrs Porto as “impossible” to pay, and she has admitted her disappointment at the hike.

“We can’t up our fees to pay for it because then we would be entitled to the free place scheme offered by the County education board,” she said.

“I’m disappointed and shocked at how we have been treated and this has placed us in a difficult situation.”

Mrs Porto has been in contact with North Herts East MP Oliver Heald who has leant his support, but she is relying on “parent power” to ensure a new building can be afforded.

“Every parent I have spoken to has shown a great deal of concern about this, but we have plenty of parent power and fundraising opportunities coming up,” she said.

“We are looking at some other possibilities in the town at other schools, but the process could be long and could cost more money.”

A joint statement from Tannery Drift and Herts County Council (HCC) said: “We are still in discussion with the playgroup about this matter so it wouldn’t be appropriate to go into the details.

“However, what we can say is that the rent being requested is in line with rent charged for similar private businesses to use HCC property elsewhere in the county.”