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Parents fight to save Arc nursery from closure

Worried parents crowded into the Arc nursery in Crosby Row on Monday determined to save it from closure.

Although the meeting was called at short notice the room proved too small to seat all the parents alarmed at the news that the Arc nursery is to close at the end of this term. The staff redundancy process has already begun.

The name Arc stands for 'Accessible Responsible Childcare' and Charterhouse-in-Southwark opened the nursery in 2002 as a flagship project to provide subsidised places for children aged 3 months to 5 years. The adapted building in Crosby Row was formally declared open by government minister Baroness Ashton, now Lord Mandelson's successor in Brussels.

"We are not in the business of running schools," said Charterhouse-in-Southwark trustees' chair Armel Cates who told the meeting that the charity had no option but to announce closure as it no longer had enough money to subsidise the nursery. It had ceased to be able to offer even half price places and was now losing money.

However, many present claimed that it was only uncertainty about the future of the Arc that had caused numbers to fall even though nearby nurseries have large waiting lists.

After a two-hour debate parents led by Bermondsey architect Andrew Wright won agreement to be allowed to make an appeal to a full trustees meeting next Tuesday. An offer was made to either try and broker a deal between Charterhouse and a recognised nursery chain or to seek a local rescue plan.

The meeting was reminded that Charterhouse-in-Southwark had recently ceased to be a provider of services and had made more than 30 staff redundant. Only the director Janet Kennedy, who was also present, remained in post. Both the charity and parents agreed that closure would be costly for Charterhouse which has been unable to sell its other two buildings nearby.

A number of parents who offered their skills to advise on an alternative to closure are starting a series of early morning meetings tomorrow in an attempt to meet next week's deadline.

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