A community hub could close after its owners announced a £20,000 charge for the lease.

Witham Community Hub is based in a retail unit in the centre of the Newland Shopping Centre.

For the past five years it has been used by the town free of charge thanks to centre owner New River Retail, and run by Witham Boys Brigade.

Now all the other units in the centre have been let, New River Retail has said it will start charging £20,000 as a heavily discounted lease for two years.

Tina Townsend, chairman of Witham Chamber of Commerce, has set up a fundraising page to raise the rent and save the centre from closure.

She said: “We have community groups waiting to set up regular events.

“These include mental health workshops, which are booked for January already, plus workshops regarding how to manage money, use social media and much more.

“We have the support of the local businesses who have agreed to fund the running costs for the unit, so we can offer it as much as possible free or at a very low cost to all groups.

“We will manage the hub to ensure it is available to all at the lowest cost possible, so it is there for our community and ensure it remains fit for purpose.”

The hub will be used by several groups, such as Community 360, Essex Police for its community activities, Essex County Council’s Facebook admin project and Witham Neighbourhood Watch.

Mrs Townsend added: “We have very limited places available for our community.

“Its regular use shows it is needed and we really don’t want to lose it.

“We aim to open this as a mental health hub, which is desperately needed in our community.

“We have also put in for funding from other sources so we are hopeful we can raise what we need, but we need the public to get behind us.

“Showing support and pledging as little at £2, although of course we will take as much as anyone wants to give, will show the alternative funding streams it is wanted by the town and give us a better chance of reaching our goal.”

New River Retail did not respond to a request for comment.

To donate, visit spacehive.com/save-our-community-hub.