United Kingdom

800-year-old church faces threat from council to limit parking in blow for weddings and funerals 

It has managed to survive the Black Death, the Reformation and the Civil War.

But now the idyllic village church of St James the Less is under threat from council bureaucrats’ plans for double yellow lines outside.

It would limit access and make funerals, weddings, bell-ringing and visits to graves difficult without incurring fines, said the Reverend Rosalind La Stacey, vicar of the church in Dorney, Buckinghamshire, near Windsor and Eton.

She is being backed by the Bishop of Buckingham in her fight against the scheme to restrict parking on the quiet country lane leading to the Grade I listed church.

Its very survival would be threatened by double yellow lines after 800 years of unrestricted access, according to its parochial church council.

The idyllic village church of St James the Less, in Dorney, Buckinghamshire, is under threat from council bureaucrats’ plans for double yellow lines outside

Mrs La Stacey said parking in Dorney is so limited that if the plan goes ahead church visitors might have to park a mile and a half away in the village of Eton Wick – too far for many elderly members of the congregation to walk.

The church lies opposite open fields on leafy Court Lane – deserted when the Daily Mail visited this week – and beside relative newcomer Dorney Manor, which dates from 1440 and was used in the 2019 film The Personal History of David Copperfield.

St James the Less began its long history as the parish church in the 12th century, with an unusual brick tower added in Tudor times and a porch in the 17th century. It still has its Norman font and family pews from the 1600s. But all its history will remain just that if Buckinghamshire Council’s parking plans keep visitors away.

Critics say the problem of parking on the lane outside the church was largely caused by an unusual surge in visitors to Eton College’s nearby rowing lake during lockdown. This has been closed to the public as a result, to be reopened over autumn and winter.

The parochial church council said the proposed double yellow lines ‘will severely hamper access to the building, decimating congregation numbers and its ability to hold weddings, funerals and baptisms, ultimately forcing the closure of the 800-year-old community hub’.

Mrs La Stacey said: ‘To put these in would severely restrict the use of the church.

Reverend Rosalind La Stacey is being backed by the Bishop of Buckingham in her fight against the scheme to restrict parking on the quiet country lane leading to the Grade I listed church

‘We want to be clear – we must have continued unrestricted access as has existed for over 800 years to thrive and survive.’

She added the number parking spaces needed varies depending on occasions ranging from bell-ringing practice to weddings, and there are no set times for services such as funerals.

Mrs La Stacey said the council’s only attempt at a concession to churchgoers’ needs is suggesting ‘unloading bays’ outside. She described ‘unloading’ as ‘an unusable concept for a funeral for example’.

The Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson, said: ‘The proposals are a blunt instrument that will have catastrophic consequences for the church and its community… [which] views St James the Less as a vital part of its identity.’

Paul Humpleman, of the parochial church council, said: ‘If parking is restricted it will probably result in our church closing.’ In pursuit of their campaign, the church, vicar and bishop urged locals to lodge objections with a council consultation that has now closed.

Campaigners say the yellow lines appear to have been proposed to stop ‘occasional anti-social parking’ outside Eton’s Dorney Lake, which also lies off the same lane as the church.

Buckinghamshire Council’s Steve Broadbent said: ‘As a result of ongoing and escalating reports of anti-social behaviour and irresponsible parking in the area by the lake, a decision was taken to carry out an informal consultation to gather local opinion and views on proposed works to alleviate the problem.

‘We will make a decision on further action once these have been taken into account.’ 

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