A HEARTBROKEN mother was forced to close her pre-school group because of rising rents.

Hove resident Maureen Crookes said she had “33 years of wonderful memories” from Playtime Under 5s, a children’s club she started in the 1980s.

The 66-year-old said her and daughter Claire were “devastated” it has to end.

“Closing is not something we would have chosen to do if the finances could be balanced,” she said.

“I haven’t taken a wage for a while now.

“I’ve been running it off my own back.

“There were four other members of staff but I have had to make them redundant too.

“But the Government funding isn’t there any more. It hasn’t increased since 2015.

“In our view this is the time to close our doors and be remembered for the caring way in which we undertook our role.”

Ms Crookes said “increased bureaucracy” and the possibility of rent increasing meant she had to make the tough decision to close the club.

“A similar building in the same park had its annual rent substantially increased,” she said.

“The Government has capped fees and restricts our ability to earn even a modest income.

“Small, nurturing pre-schools like ours are no longer financially viable.

“Quite a lot of clubs have shut in Brighton and Hove too.

“Things are changing and the small, nurturing pre-schools like our are disappearing.

“People now need clubs that run from early morning into the evening which we can’t do.”

Ms Crookes founded Playtime Under 5s pre-school group in 1986.

“It’s something you learn as you do it more,” she said.

“After I had my fourth child I was quite experienced.

“Helping these young people develop is its own reward.”

After moving to Wish Road in 1996, the pre-school looked after children for more than 20 years.

Though it has now closed, Ms Crookes said her memories of it would “never fade”.

“It is a sad end to what has been a large part of my life for so long,” she said.

“Being open for so long has meant that we had children the parents of whom were themselves pupils at Playtime.

“It’s been 33 years of wonderful memories but they will never fade.”