A cash-strapped riding school which has played an important role in the community for 60 years could be forced to close as it struggles to pay the rent.
Bosses at the Queen Elizabeth Riding School in Forest Side, Chingford, felt they had no choice but to accept a quarterly rent hike to £4,500 from £2,000 after they were told by landlord The Orchid Group five years ago that there would be no negotiations.
Now the school, which helps troubled teenagers and teaches 50 people each weekend and more in school holidays, is running out of money and could be forced to shut down unless a solution can be found.
Owner Kevin Raby, 59, revealed he is nine months behind in paying the rent.
He said: "The rent has really crippled me. I've used private funds to keep things going but now those funds have gone.
"We're left in an awful position. It's my livelihood and means so much to the community but now we're in a very tough situation."
Cindy Evans, 53, who has ridden at the school for more than 20 years and has called in the landowner, which owns the adjacent Queen Elizabeth pub, to discuss the issue.
She said: "It’s absolutely stunning. When the renewal came up it was a case of take it or leave it so we took it. It’s a huge increase.
"At the time we had a certain amount of capital but it ate into that and now there’s nothing left to pay it with.
"We feel they’re trying to force us out. People are worried about the future."
"It’s such a shame. This is such a successful place and this is the only issue it has. We just want to know what The Orchid Group’s plans are.
"They’ve been reluctant to communicate with us at all."
The school helps teenagers with behavioural problems by teaching them a sense of responsibility as they look after the 20 horses and ponies at the stables.
Both Chingford MP Iain Duncan Smith and councillor Michael Lewis have agreed to write to The Orchid Group in an effort to keep the school going.
Lance Renetske, chairman of Epping Forest Riders Association, said: "I have ridden here since 1971 and have introduced friends to the school and the sport of riding.
"The stables are a unique facility in this part of London, have excellent access to the forest and provide an outstanding opportunity for young people in particular."
The Guardian has approached The Orchid Group for comment.
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