A successful family run business is on the brink of closure after Surrey County Council demanded a 167 per cent increase in its rent.

Heritage Farm Nurseries in Wallington, an animal centre which specialises in fish, has had to make its 20 staff redundant and the owners are having to leave their home of eight years.

A petition to save the business has got over 1600 signatures since the announcement was made last week. The owners have accused the council of bullying, greed and short-sightedness.

After investing over £400,000 in the business since it opened in 2004, owners Fiona and Jonathan Daniels were told in November they had 28 days to sign Surrey Council's new deal, which included a demand of one per cent of the company turnover, or to get out.

The Daniels' thought long and hard over Christmas but have decided they cannot afford to stay open.

Mrs Daniels, said: "Its heartbreaking. We have put everything we have into this and now we have to close. We have tried to negotiate but they have refused to listen. The whole community will lose out now because of the greed of Surrey County Council."

Every week the centre is visited by school children who go to look around the tropical centre, which as well as exotic fish includes terrapins and reptiles. Outside they can meet and learn about chipmunks, chickens, squirrels and even caiman.

Members of Carshalton Mums, which helped organise an emergency meeting yesterday have voiced their shock and anger at the news.

Sue Harley said: "I cannot understand why the council would want to destroy this small family run business which is providing such a valuable service to our community."

Natalie Mulcahy, said: "Heritage is a wonderful place for children, this is all very upsetting."

Another, Emma Fletcher, has written to Surrey Council to say: "Places like this are a Godsend. It is an excuse for so many people to leave their sometimes depressing four walls, to escape to. Should we not be encouraging places like this? Words really do fail me right now. Your behaviour is disgraceful."

Tom Brake MP for Carshalton and Wallington, said he was "very disappointed at what appeared to be a very hard line approach" taken by the council.

Tim Crowley, deputy leader of the opposition, said: "I'm very disappointed that this valuable business in the local community has felt the need to close due to pressure by Surrey County Council, also it means 20 people in my ward will be on the dole queue in a time of recession."

Yesterday (Sunday, January 13) over 100 people turned up at the nurseries to show their support for the campaign to keep the business open.

Surrey County Council are yet to comment.