Westminster churches’ parking fears grow

Marylebone churches look set to lose their fight against Sunday parking charges in central Westminster with the council due to rubber-stamp the move on Monday night.

More than 250 church campaigners gathered outside a full Westminster Council meeting last week while a Salvation Army brass band played in protest against the proposals.

A petition signed by almost 3,000 people opposing the move was also handed in.

But a report to be determined by Westminster’s cabinet recommends going ahead with plans to charge for parking in southern Marylebone and the West End from noon to 6.30pm on Sundays.

The proposals mark a shorter time period than many had feared.

But Rev Sue Keegan Von Allmen, of Hinde Street Methodist Church, in Thayer Street, says they will still jeopardise churches.

“If that’s the start and end time, it’ll make no difference whatsoever because our morning service doesn’t end until after midday and our evening service starts at 6.30pm,” she said.

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“If it started half an hour later and finished half an hour earlier, we could try to move our services to fit in around it.

“For the cost of an extra hour, is it worth putting at risk the future of central London churches which play such a significant role in the community?

“It will be a serious reason for people to question whether they should go into central Westminster or go to other churches instead.”

Major Ray Brown, of the Salvation Army, says the council has ignored the concerns of Westminster’s churches, while those wishing to attend morning and afternoon services will be unable to due to a four-hour limit on parking.

Westminster’s parking boss Lee Rowley said: “We are, of course, listening to churches and that’s why I have spent lots of time at meetings with them over the past few weeks.

“But, ultimately, this is about ensuring that the traffic moves freely and there are adequate parking spaces.

“Many millions of people still see Sunday as a special day of worship but many other people treat it exactly the same as any other day and that is why it’s the second busiest shopping day.”

The proposals form part of a series of parking changes that the council says could bring in �7million.

If they are approved on Monday, they will be introduced on an 18-month experimental basis from December.