Stratford cafe and community hub could close

The Rabbit Hole's owner Nicci Yarnold, centre, could be forced to close her community cafe.

The Rabbit Hole's owner Nicci Yarnold, centre, could be forced to close her community cafe. - Credit: Archant

The fate of a well-loved Stratford community cafe hangs in the balance following a business rates dispute.

Former intensive care nurse Nicci Yarnold, of Matthews Park Avenue, ditched the apron to launch her own cafe and nearly-new boutique, The Rabbit Hole, in May, in a bid to spend more time with her daughter.

But now just four months before its first birthday, the Leytonstone Road hub is facing its toughest hour after receiving the most unwanted of Christmas presents – an unexpected £7,000 bill with the threat of bailiffs.

Nicci said: “I couldn’t see a way out of it and was going to shut, but people were very encouraging.

“The online support has been amazing, but ultimately we need everyone to support the shop.

“If everyone that signed a petition spent £10 a month say, there’d be no problem.”

The shop also offer locals a source of income by selling donated children’s clothes, books and wooden toys, returning up to 60 per cent of costs back to donators.

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In addition to the cafe, facilities include a pram park, an enclosed baby area and library corner for play activity and learning.

Newham Council have now suspended the enforcement action and agreed a new payment plan with Nicci, to allow more time and take into account any changes made by the Valuation Office –who set the rates.

A council spokesperson said: “Officers and local councillors have been in touch with the owner of the Rabbit Hole to offer support and advice her on how she can register as a charity for business rates relief of up to 80 per cent.

“We have given her advice on what to do and how to appeal if she feels the property’s rateable value has been assessed incorrectly.”

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