Rent row locks 36 children out of Barking nursery

Nursery staff with manager Monica Sobhanan, second from right, and owner Nisha Sobhanan, far right,

Nursery staff with manager Monica Sobhanan, second from right, and owner Nisha Sobhanan, far right, who arrived to find the Barking centre closed this morning Picture: Sebastian Murphy-Bates - Credit: Archant

Parents arrived at a nursery to find the locks had been changed, denying access to 36 children.

The closure of Abbey Pre-School at Abbey Community Centre in Barking today upset parents who say they weren’t warned.

Carer Esther Obasi, 29, says the closure caused chaos for her three children.

“I’m really, really distressed and I’m really sad,” she said. “I’m not happy and my children aren’t happy.”

Shop supervisor Nadia Haider, 27, had to take the day off work.

“It’s ruined my day,” she said. “If we were told we could’ve made other arrangements.”

The closure was the result of an ongoing dispute with nursery owner Nisha Sobhanan, 57, and members of the Cowbridge Lane centre’s commitee who have upped her rent.

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Nisha, who has run the nursery since 2005, faces paying £17 an hour to hire the hall, a rise of £2.50 an hour.

“This isn’t about a business, it’s about parents, children and our reputation,” she said. “We’ve been running this place so well for 11 years. When I took it over the nursery had 12 kids a day now it has 72. ”

She said it will be even harder to pay her five staff from January to July, when the higher intake will set rent at £22.50 an hour.

But Katie Peters, who runs the committee in a voluntary role, says the rise is necessary to compensate for the inflation of bill costs.

Katie re-opened the nursery at 12.30pm the same day, despite not coming to an agreement with Nisha.

She says she’s “bent over backwards” for Nisha, installing a £20,000 kitchen to be used exclusively by the nursery.

“I think they’ve taken it personally and it really isn’t,” Katie said. “It’s not a lot of money to ask them to put into the hall.

“We have a lot of other groups that help subsidise the hall and the pre-school’s rent is the lowest.”

Katie says she warned on September 23 that the locks would be changed today if the rise was not agreed to by September 30, adding the committee placed notices inside the hall and on the building’s front door but somebody took them down.