A CHARITY shop and tearoom with a ‘To Let’ sign outside wants customers to know it’s still in business.

The Chernobyl Children’s Life Line shop in Victoria Road raises money to bring children on respite trips from the area around the former Soviet power station.

An explosion in 1986 soiled the surrounding area with heavy radiation and left a legacy of health issues which continues to affect new generations.

A £5,000 rent increase for the shop means the charity must relocate, but it wants to reassure donors and customers that for now it’s business as usual.

Manager Lynette Corengia said: “We’re coming up to the end of our third year here, and during that time we’ve brought 60 children here and supported families and health projects over there.

“The rent has been increasing by about £1,000 a year; we’re paying £12,000 a year. We knew the lease was coming up for renewal in September, and we found out it was going to be £17,000.

“That’s an extra £5,000 we wouldn’t be able to spend on our projects. We’re a charity and there’s no way we could afford that – we’d be working just to keep our rent paid.”

Although the lease doesn’t end until September, Lynette and her fellow volunteers plan to shut up shop at the end of June, giving them time to remove stock and make the premises ready for handing back.

The charity is hoping either for a sponsor to come forward and help with the increased rent, or for a landlord to offer another shop, pereferably in Old Town, for less money.

Whatever happens, the volunteers have pledged that the charity’s work and fundraising will continue.

In the meantime Lynette worries that the ‘To Let’ sign outside will make people think the shop and tearoom is closing down now.

“We want everybody to know we’re still here,” she added.

Further information about the charity and its work can be found at swindon.ccll.org.uk