Residents in Twickenham are distraught that the Salvation Army have decided to close a much-loved community cafe and pre-school. 

The Salvation Army have decided not to renew the lease of both the Community Corner Cafe and Chestnuts Pre-School. The cafe will be closing at the end of the year, while the pre-school will close in April 2019. 

The Community Corner Cafe has been a staple in the Twickenham Green area for almost five years. It is the 'perfect place' to go for a coffee and play in the mornings and is a 'lifeline' for people who need support. 

Along with her support team, the manager Annie has been a welcoming face in the cafe and made it a supportive, fun and fantastic hub where local families can meet, share stories and form friendships. It is also a safe friendly place for children. 

Local resident Helen Delany said: "I’m very sad to hear that both Chestnuts Pre-School and the Community Corner Cafe will be closing. My daughter attended Chestnuts for a year and a half and loved it. We also visit the cafe frequently, sometimes several times a week. 

"The cafe is a unique and very welcoming place for parents and young children. It is providing something very special that no other cafes in the area can, an opportunity for parents to meet other parents, chat and relax whilst knowing their children are safe."

Vanessa Walters, whose child attended Chestnuts is 'greatly saddened' that Salvation Army have terminated the school and cafes lease, she said: "The pre-school was a very special environment with very loving staff who had been there a long time. Our daughter loved it and felt happy and safe there. 

"It took us a long time to choose the right childcare provider that had that environment and so we are greatly disappointed that other families in the area will no longer have Chestnuts preschool as an option. It is a loss to the community and to us as a family."

Vanessa also believes that the plans are not 'well thought through'. Several volunteers and residents who use the cafe have spoken highly of Annie, who has worked 'extremely hard' to build a community cafe that is affordable. 

Henrietta Bishop was deeply upset to hear the news, she said: "Annie is remarkable, she has just been fantastic for the cafe and the area. Many people see the cafe and Annie as a place of support. There is something really special about her." 

Amy D, Twickenham said: "Salvation Army is about community, kindness and supporting people in need. I feel that is a key part of the service Chestnuts provides to parents at a reasonable rate; so many local nurseries are exorbitantly priced."

Captain Clare Callister, corps officer Twickenham Salvation Army Church and Community Centre, said: "After much prayerful and careful consideration we have made the difficult decision to close The Salvation Army Community Corner Cafe in Twickenham on Thursday, December 13.

"Despite the best efforts of our staff and volunteers the cafe in its four and half years of being open has made substantial financial losses each year and has become financially unsustainable. 

"We regularly assess The Salvation Army's mission and ministry in the area and consider where God is leading us. As a church and charity we have a responsibility to steward and use our money wisely. Very sadly, when the cafe closes the role of cafe manager will be no more. We will support the manager as she seeks other employment. 

"We remain as committed as ever to serving our community in Twickenham and will look to do so in a number of ways eg. Kids' clubs, Drop ins and more We will continue to run Toddler Song, Bible Study, CAMEO, Messy Church and Sunday meetings from our hall over the road.

"We would like to thank our cafe manager, all our volunteers and all those who have supported the community corner cafe over the last four and a half years.

"The nursery has expanded in the last 20 years and they are now using another building as well as The Salvation Army hall.

"With the closure of our Community Corner Café, we will be looking to run additional Salvation Army groups from our own hall so will need the space that the nursery has been using.

"In recognition of the long-standing relationship we have with Chestnuts Nursery, we have agreed a longer than necessary notice period to support them as they move their setting together into their other building. We have agreed with them that they will move out during the Easter Holiday 2019."

Earlier this week, residents started a petition to save the cafe. At the time of publishing the petition had received 167 signatures.