Council angers church goers with Sunday parking charge plan

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A London council has faced angry protests from local churchgoers over plans to introduce parking charges on Sundays.

Westminster Council is proposing to charge motorists for parking on its streets on weekday evenings and on Sundays, a plan which churchgoers say will affect thousands of people who attend weekend services and other events.

As many as 3,500 reportedly took to the streets to protest against the possible charges, and members gathered outside a Westminster City Council meeting last week to display their displeasure.

Father William Pearsall, from Farm Street Catholic church, Mayfair, said: "Our volunteer community activities are really valuable and would present a huge loss to the local community if these plans affect our volunteers."

The policy is aimed at resolving several issues, including traffic demands on the West End and the availability of parking for residents and their visitors.

Councillor Lee Rowley said the authority had 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".

He added that research had shown it was sometimes more difficult to park in the area at the weekend than it was on some weekdays.

However, protesters say that some elderly worshippers or low income families would not be able afford to go to church if the charges were introduced.

Michael Beckett, Church Warden of St George's in Hanover Square, told the BBC: "Sunday parking charges will seriously damage the spiritual heart of the city, and limit the good works undertaken by all the central London churches".

The results of a consultation are in, and the council is expected to decide on the policy in August.