TODDLERS are heartbroken that their much-loved playgroup is closing.

The 24 tots at Shelley Playgroup face being sent to neighbouring villages because the childcare facility is closing.

Owners took the difficult decision to close it due to escalating costs at Shelley Village Hall.

Jo Richards sends her three-year-old son Loui to the playgroup.

She and the parents of the other children now face a desperate search to find a new playgroup before September.

Mrs Richards said: “We were told about two or three weeks ago and it is very upsetting; none of us want it to close.

“The Shelley Community Association have put the village hall fees up which means the owner cannot keep it going.

“We all feel very aggrieved about it; this playgroup is here for the community.

“If all the community facilities face having their fees increased they will dwindle down until there will be nothing left.

“Everyone is very upset and angry about it.”

The Shelley Playgroup has been running for more than two decades, with the current owner in charge for 12 years.

Although it is a privately-owned playgroup, it is run for the community with costs kept to a minimum.

Mrs Richards, a company secretary, added: “There is a great community spirit in Shelley.

“These children are the future of Shelley and they should not be going to Kirkburton or Denby Dale for childcare facilities, they should be staying in this village.”

The Shelley Village Association is a group of volunteers who manage the hall on behalf of the Kirkburton Parish Church.

Association chair Anne Priestman said they were doing all they could to keep costs at a minimum.

She said: “A few years ago we were told we were obliged to pay commercial rent by the Parish Council, we think we are one of few who do have to pay commercial rent on our village hall.

“Our costs went up from £1,000 to £4,000 almost overnight.

“We have tried so hard not to pass the costs on to the users.

“We really do try to subsidise community groups who use the village hall whenever we can.

“We are very sorry to have lost them, they provided an amenity that was greatly valued to the mums, dads and families in the community.

“We know it is hurting our groups and we are doing all we can.”

Kirklees Council are now offering advice to parents about local playgroups with places still available.

A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “Officers from the Early Years Service have spoken with representatives who run the playgroup and further discussions will take place on options for parents.

“Currently about 25 children attend but after September we are advised they expect this to reduce to six or seven.

“The other Early Years provision in the village is Far Bank Pre-School, which is within easy walking distance, and has already allocated some places to those who were at the Village Hall.

“Far Bank, having completed a substantial money raising campaign, are having a new portable cabin installed in July and expect to increase their number of registered places by September.

“The manager has said if parents wish to put their child’s name forward they are holding a waiting list and are confident they will be able to accommodate local children from September.”