By PIERS MCGRANDLE
A CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
Beckenham has become embroiled in a furious row with the local council after being told that new Sunday shopping laws mean that parishioners can no longer park outside the church on Sunday mornings.
Churchgoers from St Edmunds, Beckenham, which is next door to the local Sainsbury's, were recently informed by Conservative-controlled Bromley Council that they would have to park their car elsewhere in order to ease traffic congestion caused by Sunday shoppers. Anyone parking on the 100-yard stretch now faces a £40 parking fine.
One parishioner, 83-yearold Margaret Woollard, described the councillors as "idiots who have got their priorities all wrong".
"Since when have Sunday shoppers been more important than ordinary, normal churchgoers?"
Fr John Madden, the parish priest of St Edmund's, which has regular weekend congregations of 1,500, told the Herald that the parking ban would especially affect "elderly people, the handicapped, and children".
There are fears that the parking ban will drive people to Catholic parishes in other areas. St Edmund's is the only Catholic church in Beckenham.
Mr Bill Scally, Chairman of the Parish Council, said that the local authority had been inundated with complaints from parishioners, many of whom travel in from miles around. He added that he was disappointed the local council was not "more sympathetic to religious practice". The matter has been taken up by local Tory MP Piers Merchant.
Another parishioner said that it was "incredible we should be penalised, especially since we sold the land to Sainsbury's in the first place".