Sunday parking charges will cripple Westminster churches, say angry vicars

Marylebone churches campaigning against proposals to introduce Sunday parking charges took their fight to the top last night when they gathered outside a Westminster Council meeting.

The council is considering introducing parking charges in the southern part of Marylebone and the West End on Saturdays and Sundays in an attempt to reduce traffic.

But churches in the proposed charging zone are strongly opposed to the move.

Reverend Sue Keegan Von Allmen of Hinde Street Methodist Church on Thayer Street said: “It really will have a big impact on people coming into the church, especially with the variability of public transport.

“Old people and families coming in by car will certainly have a lot of difficulty.

“But it won’t just have an impact on the congregations, it will have an impact on the work we are able to do and the work of all churches in Westminster. In the long-term, the impact is possibly quite significant.

“If people can’t worship with us then they will find other churches nearer where they live. That will reduce the number of members and volunteers available to us and that reduces the work our church can do.”

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Monty Erskine, church manager at All Souls Church, Langham Place, says 500 people have signed the church’s petition against the proposals.

“There’s the fear that a lot of people that come to church on a Sunday will find it much harder to attend,” he said.

“Church communities within the city represent an unseen network of people working on all sorts of projects. Those networks and groups rely upon the church and Sunday services so there’s a fear that the community will be damaged.”

A consultation into the proposals ended last month although churches claim they were not made aware it was taking place.

A report is expected to go before the council’s cabinet in August when a decision will be made.

Parking boss Councillor Lee Rowley said: “We of course recognise the place of the church in many people’s lives and the local community, but we have a duty to everyone who lives, works or visits the heart of the capital to ensure they have a reasonable expectation of finding a place to park.

“In some parts of the West End, research shows that it is now more difficult to park on a Sunday and on weekday evenings than it is during the working week.”