There has been shock and dismay over the decision by a financially stretched Christian charity to close Knowles Tooth - a children’s centre in Hurstpierpoint offering breaks to disadvantaged and disabled youngsters.
The centre, off Langton Lane, is run by the Family Support Work (FSW) charity and is understood to have lost £40,000 since April this year.
Burgess Hill councillor Anne Jones, who has helped many disadvantaged families over the years, said: “I was so shocked to hear about this closure. I know a lot of churches in Mid Sussex and a lot of people have supported Knowles Tooth financially.
“Maybe we could have found some way of keeping these vital facilities through local communities getting involved. I think we could have done something if we had been given warnings early enough.”
The Bishop of Chichester, the Right Reverend Dr Martin Warner, who is president of the charity, said although FSW depends on “widespread commitment from across the diocese of Chichester” it is legally and financially a separate charity.
He described the decision to close Knowles Tooth as “a very sad consequence of financial necessity” and added: “My hope is that the trustees will be rigorous, realistic and imaginative in assessing how to use limited resources to deliver the best and most professional service possible to families in desperate need.”
Over the past few years, the charity has seen the demand for community outreach work grow and the demand for holidays at Knowles Tooth decline.
Falling revenue combined with high maintenance and structural costs, including the need for roof repairs, have influenced the trustees’ decision.
FSW’s director, Maggie Simons, stressed the closure would enable the charity to increase its community team that works to support socially and economically disadvantaged families.
She said: “Knowles Tooth is a well known and loved building and we will all be sad to close it, however our prime function of working with children and families across Sussex will strengthen as a result of this decision.”
The charity has been working in Sussex with families since 1890 and purchased Knowles Tooth in 1974.
Hurstpierpoint resident and health campaigner Janice Kent said: “This kind of valuable resource for rest and recuperation is much needed and it is such a pity there are not enough facilities like this in Sussex.”
The charity will take no more bookings for Knowles Tooth after the end of this year.