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Parking fees threaten churches

PUBLISHED: 18:03 21 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:13 03 March 2010

SUNDAY car parking fees in Ipswich could threaten the very existence of town centre churches.

That's the message today from Father Haley Dossor, priest in charge at St Mary at the Elms in the town centre, on the eve of a council meeting.

SUNDAY car parking fees in Ipswich could threaten the very existence of town centre churches.

That's the message today from Father Haley Dossor, priest in charge at St Mary at the Elms in the town centre, on the eve of a council meeting.

Officials at Civic Centre have been bombarded with complaints over their policy for Sunday car parking charges in the town.

Now it looks to have bowed to pressure from church leaders and is now proposing there should be parking permits for six car-loads per church.

But the worry is with congregations of 60 plus how can church officials decide who gets a permit?

Father Dossor, who led the protest against the parking charges, said: "We still feel that the council is making a mistake.

"For one day a week people should be able to park where they want; a) to go to church and b) for residents of the town centre have visits from friends or relatives where any other day of the week could prove difficult.

"We don't want churches out of existence. There are already a number of churches in the town centre that are closed.

"If the council's response is too Draconian it could work the detriment of the town centre. It is also about the survival of the churches."

The town's vicars, priests and ministers had united to try and persuade council chiefs to allow members of the congregation to park free until noon every Sunday.

However the council seems certain to reject this proposal.

"We are grateful for parking permits," said Father Dossor. "But we would like to negotiate how many. Six is not nearly enough and how would you allocate these?

"For the church to administer this would be a nightmare. Six parking permits is no where near enough to operate effectively.

"It would mean 12 or 24 people could use the spaces, but we are talking about a congregation of 60 or 70 and the nearby Methodist church has more than that."

John Woodward, 69, of Cardigan Street, Ipswich, agreed.

She said: "Six permit places is not nearly enough for a whole congregation many of whom travel from some distance outside town.

"We have people here from Woodbridge, Elmsett and from other villages … elderly people and young families.

"To talk about allocation it would probably have to be first come, first served, or work out a priority, which would be difficult."

Jenny Hinchley, 53, travels from her home in Tattingstone to worship at St Mary Elms.

She said: "The charges are one thing. But the restrictions of one hour doesn't leave enough time, especially if there is a function afterwards. It spoils the whole principle."

Worshipper Jane Hamilton-Hunting, 79, from Woodbridge travels to the town early so she can find a place to park free.

"I really do think it is bad that they have to charge on a Sunday. There are so many elderly people who need transport."

Members of the council's executive committee are meeting tomorrow at 6pm to discuss the matter.

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