Kirkcaldy playgroup folds blaming church rents

St Bryce Playgroup has operated from St Bryce Kirk's centre for over 25 years but that history ends next month.

St Bryce Playgroup has operated from St Bryce Kirk's centre for over 25 years but that history ends next month.

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A Kirkcaldy playgroup which has existed for over 25 years is to abruptly fold after church bosses told the group to ‘pay up or leave by Christmas’.

St Bryce Playgroup, which cares for 21 pre-schoolers on weekday mornings at St Bryce Kirk’s hall, has announced to shocked parents it will close on November 6.

Kim Gilmartin, committee member, said: “We are being forced to close because the rent is too high.”

She added: “They want the money, which is fine, but I would have hoped that after 25 years the playgroup would have meant something to them.

“They are meant to be a church and that’s what really hurts the parents - you think of a church hall as a place where everyone helps out, is really nice and friendly and looks out for everyone.

“Not anymore; it’s a business. It’s sad.”

According to the playgroup, rents doubled in the past six years and the rates were four times that of Linktown Church playgroup.

St Bryce church asked for another rent increase earlier this year which the group could not afford, claims Kim.

“They said they would freeze the rent until Christmas and we would meet in November to discuss the long-term future,” she added.

“We didn’t get that opportunity.

“This has been very rushed and we’ve been left with a massive mess.”

Four members of staff will lose their jobs and play equipment is being sold to help fund redundancy packages.

Ann Winters, St Bryce Kirk hall’s manager, denied the church had demanded a rise in room hire rates.

The church committee wasn’t able to accommodate a request by the playgroup earlier this year to lower the rates, she said.

Mrs Winter added: “The church has carried the playgroup from day one - they’ve paid less than half of a charity rate for years and years and years.”

The decision to end the arrangement was made by the church’s financial committee and business committee, she commented.

“It was agonised over; it wasn’t a cold decision,” she said, “but there came a point where we couldn’t sustain the situation anymore.”