Playgroup volunteers have branded as unchristian a decision to force them out of a church hall where they have met for 20 years.

Members of the Wrose Playgroup, which meets three days a week at St Cuthberts Church, Wrose, say they are shocked after being given notice to quit the church hall by the end of July in a letter from the Reverend Paul Walker.

In the letter Mr Walker says the church is planning to extend its facilities and is hoping to secure funding to start a community project that would include its own child care facilities.

He also says that the rent of £7.50 a session paid by the group means that the church is having to subsidise their activities and if they were to stay it "would have to levy a significant increase in rent."

But Kay Robinson-Hairsine, treasurer of the Pre-School Training Alliance in Shipley and assistant play leader at Shipley, said: "In today's multicultural society it's not a very Christian thing to do to close our playgroup down and open one of their own. The church was offered the chance to take over the group last year but turned it down. We can't afford to pay extra rent and he knows that. We don't want to close but it's being forced on us."

Toddler group leader Joanna Dennison, whose own children attend the group, said: "There's nowhere else for the toddlers to go in this area, certainly not within walking distance."

In his letter Mr Walker adds: "Whilst I appreciate that this has in the event, come as something as a surprise, I nonetheless still think that the time has come for the current incarnation of the Playgroup and Mums and Toddlers to end, so that a fresh start can be made in due course."

He told the Telegraph & Argus a meeting with group members will be held next Tuesday and he hoped they could come to an amicable agreement.

He said: "I'm not a hard hearted or unreasonable person and I'm sure we can accommodate them. The rent has not gone up for some considerable time and it's costing us money to have the play group and we are not in a position to be able to subsidise that work."

He said no decision had yet been taken on whether any other groups would have to leave the church hall.

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