A New Milton nursery is facing closure after being given notice to leave its current home at Arnewood School.

Staff and parents of children at Whistlestop Nursery, based in part of Arnewood’s Sixth Form for the past six years, have launched a petition opposing the move.

Owner and nursery manager Debbie Martin said the problems started when government funding for a new facility was withdrawn.

Other options subsequently fell through, leaving them “high and dry”. The nursery has until July to find new premises.

She said: “We had more than 70 families. On hearing this news some have already gone. Everyone is devastated.”

Angry parents have started a petition in a bid to save Whistlestop and persuade Hampshire County Council to let them move to the Fernmount Centre in Violet Lane, New Milton. They have also set-up a Facebook group ‘Save Whistlestop Day Nursery’ and have many signatures on an online petition.

Parent Gemma St John said: “This nursery is so important to so many people. There is no baby unit anywhere around here, it’s vital this stays open.”

Sandra Church, another mum, added: “The government wants us to get back out to work and then we’re hindered by essential services like this closing – it’s a joke.”

The Arnewoood School’s chair of governors Elizabeth Cook said: “When Whistlestop first moved in six years ago it was under a fixed-term contract. The nursery always knew it was only a temporary home.

“The nursery was notified last November of the decision by the governing body not to renew its lease, far longer than the three-month period required by the lease.

“We have allowed the company until the end of this July to move out. We need the accommodation and wish the nursery our very best in the future.”

County Council deputy leader Cllr Roy Perry said: “The council’s children’s services department has been working with Mrs Martin to help her find options for alternative accommodation. Suitable premises within the New Milton area are very limited.

“A number of options have been explored but, so far, those options have not been able to offer the nursery a permanent, purpose-built solution. Fernmount would not be able to accommodate the nursery.”