Parents at Scalford say they are devastated by news that a church which has hosted the village’s pre-school classes for more than 40 years is to close in October.
The methodist church, which has stood on New Street since the 1870s, has become a vital community hub with capacity almost full at the village hall.
As well as being the meeting place for pre-school children and worshippers, it is the venue for parish council and women’s institute meetings, choir practice, training sessions and voting for local elections.
But it is probably those associated with the pre-school who will probably suffer most as it provides a place where children can develop before moving up to the nearby primary school and a social network for young families, particularly those new to the village.
Anna Marsden, whose children Eva (10), Martha (6) and four-year-old Fleur have all attended the pre-school since she moved with her husband to Scalford nine years ago, said: “The church building is such a huge part of the community.
“It will be an absolute crying shame if the village loses its pre-school because it was a big draw for us in moving here in the first place.
“It’s made a big difference to my children in making them ready for school and to us as a family in terms of settling here through meeting other mums and dads.”
There is now a desperate search for a new home for the pre-school but that could be a challenge with only six months to find somewhere.
Janet Leek, who is chair of the pre-school, said: “At the moment there is nowhere in the village where we can go.
“It means we will have to close in October but we don’t want that to happen.
“We take up to 20 children in the pre-school and we send around 80 per cent of them to the village primary school so there would clearly be a knock-on effect there if we were to close.
“We’ve only just learned the news about the church but parents have been very supportive - I’ve just had a message from a mum who has a child with us and who is absolutely devastated.”
Mrs Leek said the ideal scenario would be to re-locate to somewhere like a new wooden classroom but that could cost up to £30,000.
She is preparing to apply for community grant aid to help pay for it, with the rest having to be provided from fundraising.
“There is a pre-school at Waltham but none in our area,” added Mrs Leek.
“Losing the methodist church building will be a big loss for the community - we will be down to having a school, a village hall, a post office in someone’s house and a pub, which is a lot less than what we had when I moved here 28 years ago.
“We can’t use the village hall because that is used 90 per cent of the time already so we will have to find somewhere else like the many other community groups who meet at the church.”
The pre-school meets there every day from Monday to Thursday and worship is held every Sunday morning at the church, which is part of the Melton Mowbray Methodist Circuit, which also includes Sage Cross and Sandy Lane churches in Melton plus the Great Dalby church.
Scalford Parish Council clerk, Chris Hill, said councillors would, after October, have to hold their meetings in the village hall or return to the primary school, where they met until about 15 months ago.
He said: “It is a suprise to hear the church is closing, to be honest, although I don’t know the ins and outs of it.
“From the parish council’s point of view it’s not the end of the world but it is going to be missed by all sorts of people in the community including, of course the pre-school group.”
We are awaiting a statement from the local Methodist preacher, the Rev James Skinner, on why the decision was taken to close the church.
More to follow.