A Croydon garden centre run by volunteers with disabilities is set to be closed down by the council despite more than 2,000 people signing a petition to save it.

The Cherry Orchard Garden centre has been a fixture in Croydon for the past 30 years.

It is one of a number of cuts the council is making in the wake of issuing its third bankruptcy notice in just two years.

The authority claims it would have to invest £764,000 in the centre to keep it open and closing it would save £180,000 a year.

The final decision was taken by Croydon Mayor, Jason Perry, last week.

In a written notice, he said in light of the investment needed to keep the centre running it would close down.

There was the possibility for the centre to be handed to a group in the voluntary sector through a process known as a ‘Community Asset Transfer’ which would mean the council would not be responsible for repairs.

However, despite one group showing interest the council said the level of investment needed in the site meant “this option is unlikely to occur”.

The council employs two full-time staff members who manage 20 volunteers with learning disabilities.

There are another three positions at the centre, one of which is full-time, which are currently vacant.

The annual budget of the garden centre is £196,000, of which £184,000 goes on staffing.

The council said “redeployment opportunities” for the staff will be explored but if nothing is found a three month redundancy notice will be issued.

Volunteers at the garden centre will be offered alternative opportunities, the council claims.

It said they will be offered spaces at an intergenerational gardening project nad a wilderness project.

The report said: “It is not expected that there will be any significant issues arising as the service users and volunteers move into new sessions.

"The Active Lives team will support the move into new services to ensure a smooth transition.”

A council report adds the “poor state of the site” causes a health and safety risk which would have to be repaired if it remained open, including an uneven footpath which caused one volunteer to fall over.

At a meeting on February 1, Croydon Council heard a petition which called on the authority to keep the garden centre open. 

The petition was started by Charles Barber who told a Croydon Council meeting about one of the volunteers who is “devastated” by the news.

He said: “Darren’s whole sense of identity is tied up in the garden centre.

"He has worked at his local garden centre for 31 years without any form of payment and [he has been] told he is no longer needed and no longer wanted, he has far less options to fall back on.”

However, cabinet member for finance, Councillor Jason Cummings, said the “difficult decision” was needed to save the council money.

He said: “The sad reality is that the path back to financial stability will include decisions of this nature, each of which will impact on the residents of Croydon."