A PLAYGROUP at the heart of a Bicester community for 25 years faces closure if it cannot raise £200,000 for a new building.

Oxfordshire County Council inspectors have given Rainbow Playgroup six months to repair or replace its dilapidated portable building.

Now, staff, children and parents have launched an appeal to raise enough money to build a new centre in Hendon Place, off Sunderland Drive.

Children launched the appeal with a walkathon yesterday, in The Cooper School’s grounds.

The current building has subsided and its floor is rotten.

Committee secretary Roz Edwards said the building was donated to the playgroup about nine years ago and was already 20 years old.

She said: “The council came out and did a report on the safety of the building. It has come back and confirmed that it needs a lot of work doing within six months.

“We have two years on the lease, which may be extended, but we have to do these repairs and these repairs are big. We don’t know how much it is going to cost.

“We know there’s a possibility in six months that we will have to look for a temporary building or, worse, close.

“It would leave a massive gap – and where would 70 children and nine staff go?”

She said the playgroup, a charity, was in talks with nearby Glory Farm School over moving to its grounds, but Rainbow would still have to fund a new building.

A Save Rainbow Playgroup petition has also been launched in a bid to show the county council the importance of the facility.

Mrs Edwards, whose children Katie, six, and Holly, four, both attend the playgroup, is urging families who have used the playgroup to add their support.

Manager Mandy Zdyrko said: “The building is very old and falling to pieces. In the past six months we have spent thousands of pounds patching it up.

“When we got the building it was already second-hand. We are hoping to have a brick building.”

Charlotte Roberts, whose son William attends the nursery, said: “He often comes home talking excitedly about what he has done during the day and who he has played with while he was there.

“We think it has helped him to become a very clever and confident little boy and we look forward to what he will be learning in the next few months.”

She added that her one-year-old daughter was also due to start at the nursery next September but was concerned it may not be open then.

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman said the playgroup could have applied for a grant from a £7.8m pot of cash which is intended to improve provision of care for young children, including replacing buildings.

He said: “Rainbow Playgroup knew that the building they lease from the county council might be required to be replaced.

“Unfortunately, they did not apply to be considered for the grant and the closing date has now passed.”

The council and playgroup are due to meet tomorrow to discuss the problems.

Among the work needed to be done is rebuild ramps, repair the toilet and replace guttering.