Distraught teachers at a King's Road school that served a Chelsea estate for more than two decades are reeling after its doors were closed forever.
The English Language School in World's End Place, King's Road, has been forced out of its home in the Chelsea Theatre after being unable to pay its rent. The credit crunch has proved a killer blow for the college, which employs numerous Chelsea residents and has been in King's Road since the 1980s.
School director Andrew Russell said: "We've been a fixture here for 23 years and we don't have the resources to find another premises."
Mr Russell, who is also secretary of the Friends of World's End Place residents' group, feels he has been treated 'appallingly' by the theatre, which he says could have given him the chance to pay rent in two installments.
He is writing to Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, Tory leader David Cameron and Kensington and Chelsea Council to press for more support for small borough businesses. Angry students have already penned letters to the theatre chair and local Conservative Jonathan Fraser Howells, voicing their dismay over the decision to evict the school.
Teacher Ann Gilbert), of Edith Grove, has lost her job together with fellow teacher Stefanie Harwood - a Chelsea resident for 40 years.
Ms Gilbert added: "This has all been a bit of a shock. Many teachers are from the community and many of our students live on the World's End. We felt part of World's End."
General manager of the Chelsea Theatre, James Tilston, said: "We have every sympathy for the students and teachers of Chelsea EFL Ltd who have been affected by the failure to honour its financial obligations to Chelsea Theatre.
"During the current term of their licence agreement Chelsea EFL Ltd have defaulted on payments three times and given no guarantee as to when arrears would be met. As a small charitable organisation, hire of our facilities is our main source of income. It is with regret that we cannot allow a repeatedly indebted private business to continue trading from our premises with no certainty that obligations will be met."
The theatre spokesman added that they did offer a 'restructured payment plan' to the language school and added that 'payment was stopped by Chelsea EFL Ltd with no prior warning, and no indication when or if this obligation would be met'.