A nursery at Preston Guild Hall has shut down after the city council did not renew its lease.
It follows a dispute over whether or not businessman Simon Rigby owns the Young Steps Nursery, formerly Safehands.
The closure means nursery operations director Paul Manning has had to let go of six staff members and “disappoint 35 children”.
Mr Manning says that the nursery was refused the lease because the city council believed it was owned by Simon Rigby when “in fact it belonged to his wife”.
But the council says it has not been officially notified who is running the nursery.
In a statement issued to the Post Mr Manning warned that Young Steps Nurseries Ltd was considering taking legal action over the matter.
He said: “We are all shocked. When Preston City Council changed the locks on Friday they advised us to go to Town Hall to agree a new lease.
“A colleague waited three hours to be told that no lease was on offer to Young Steps as it belonged to Simon Rigby. It was pointed out that in fact it belonged to his wife.
“PCC said they felt sorry for the parents and children but the decision was final.
“The council could not even tell us when we could have access to the property to get our equipment.
“We are unable to access children’s files so that we can notify parents of the closure. There are personal effects in there. It is a complete mess.
“We have been left with no choice but to permanently close.”
Preston City Council (PCC) had taken back control of the Guild Hall, changing all its locks, on Friday citing “unacceptable behaviour” from Mr Rigby.
READ MORE: City council steps in to take control of Preston Guild Hall citing Simon Rigby’s ‘unacceptable behaviour’
It left all sub-leases of outlets within the Guild Hall “null and void” and meant tenants, on the ground floor had to agree new lease contracts with the council.
Following the nursery’s closure a city council spokesman said: “The confusion of ownership of the Safe Hands or Young Steps nursery emanates from when it went into administration in December last year.
“Until today, Preston City Council has not received notification of who is running the nursery, despite multiple contacts made with the Rigby Group and appointed administrator.
“While in administration companies are exempt from business rates, but when ownership changes or it is reopened, the council must be immediately notified and rates re-applied.
“It is the duty of whoever owns this nursery to notify the council and pay the appropriate rates.
“We briefly met with a representative of the Rigby Group on Friday, on behalf of Safe Hands or Young Steps nursery, who did not dispute that the nursery is part of the Rigby Group.
“Unfortunately he left before the dialogue could continue, which could have included an escorted visit to the premises. They are more than welcome to get in touch to finish the conversation at their convenience.”
According to Companies House directors of Young Steps Nurseries Limited include Thomas Adam Flack, Paul Dixon Manning and William Simon Rigby.
Just before Christmas, in December 2018, about 100 Safehands Nursery staff lost their jobs across the North West after nine out of 12 were closed by Mr Rigby.
While one branch in Ribbleton Avenue was closed at the time, the nursery at the Guild Hall remained open.