Nursery children evicted from Leeds pre-school as land owners serve 12 days' notice
Parents of children at a North Leeds nursery have been given 12 days to find a new one after the land owners served them an eviction notice.
The future of Cookridge Pre School hangs in the balance, after the parents of its 72 children were sent a letter saying the lease had been discontinued.
The nursery is run by national Early Years Alliance, but sits on land owned by adjoining North West Leeds Education Partnership-led Cookridge Primary School, who reportedly want to use the land to expand their own premises.
Distraught parents say they have been left high and dry, with a protest held outside the school on Monday morning.
A petition has also been set up to save the nursery.
Leeds City Council have clarified the move was not a council city but they are willing to support parents who have been affected.
Melissa Hughes has two children, including a four-year-old son with diagnosed autism, at Cookridge Pre School and said staff, parents and children had all been left devastated by the news.
She said: "The primary school own the pre-school land - they've been there for 12 years but the primary school have now given notice to leave the land or, in their words, they're 'changing the locks'.
"We all only found out on Friday and everyone is absolutely gutted. The staff have really good relationships with the parents and we feel like it's all been broken up."
Melissa added: "The nursery has been amazing for my children. All my kids have been through it and anyone I know who has started there has ended up thriving."
The letter sent to parents on Friday read: "It is with regret that I have to inform you that the Early Years Alliance, who manages the pre-school at Cookridge has been served notice by Leeds North West Education Partnership to vacate the premises by the 31st July 2019.
"We are extremely disappointed and saddened by this decision.
"We have tried unsuccessfully to secure our occupancy with the owner of the property, Leeds City Council, but have so far been unable to do so.
"They've given notice to leave the land or they're 'changing the locks'" -- Melissa Hughes, parent
"We have also sought a meeting with Leeds North West Education Partnership to arrive at an amicable solution. Although we are waiting a response to this request, the Partnership has made it clear it expects us to have left the premises by the above date.
"Sadly, this means we have no option but to close the pre-school permanently from the 24th July and not reopen in September for the Autumn term."
Lynne Hunter, the headteacher at Cookridge Primary School, said: “I have huge sympathy for the parents, children and staff of the nursery. The decision taken by the Early Years Alliance to close the nursery comes after four years of hard work by the team and governing body at Cookridge Primary School to resolve a very difficult situation.
Over that period no lease was in place, and the school received no rent despite having to cover the costs of maintaining and managing the building. It is a situation that is unsustainable for any primary school where financial pressures mean we have to watch every penny. “We support every child at Cookridge Primary School by providing good quality education and a supportive environment, alongside breakfast and after school clubs. We kept Leeds City Council fully informed of the situation and support their work to help families find alternative nursery places.”
A spokeswoman for the Early Years Alliance said: “We were shocked to receive an eviction notice from Leeds North West Education Partnership stating that we had to leave the premises.
"We have proudly provided early years education and childcare for a number of years for the local community, and despite our best efforts to obtain a reversal of this decision the Partnership has not agreed to this to date. Accordingly, we will cease nursery provision at Cookridge Pre-school at the end of this term.
"Our priority is to work with our staff for whom the news has been a devastating blow, and to do all we can for the families we serve as they now find themselves without childcare. We are still in communication with the solicitors for the school trust and as such we do not have any further comments at this stage.”
A Leeds City Council spokesman said: “Responsibility for the school site moved to the Leeds North West Education Partnership (the Trust) in 2012 and since then the Trust has been in occupation and control of the site. Therefore the decision to evict the nursery was not the decision of the Council.
“We are committed to helping the families affected to find alternative nursery places for their children. Parents/carers are advised to look at the Leeds Family Information Service website in the first instance to find out what provision is available in the local area.”