PARISHES in the UK are earning more than £20,000 a month by renting out spaces in their church and hall car parks.
The organisation behind an online booking scheme, YourParkingSpace, calculates that it provides an average of £200 a month for the 100 churches on its books, most of them near town centres or popular visitor attractions.
Close to Twickenham Stadium, St Philip and St James, Whitton, earns £5000 a year from people who are attending matches and concerts. The Vicar, the Revd David Cloake, described it as a “no-brainer”: the parish was earning enough to cover the church’s annual heating and lighting bills. “We were a parish struggling with a deficit; now we no longer do so,” he said. “It is probably the easiest money we make in a year — making as much as a good summer fair, which requires a huge amount of endeavour.”
All the arrangements are handled by the parking company, and the church receives a monthly payment to its bank account. The church can accommodate 30 cars on the three-quarters of an acre of unconsecrated land that adjoins it. “It was one of those sacred cows: church grounds are sacred, even if they are not consecrated, but we got past that,” Mr Cloake said.
“It has been sufficiently stress-free that no one complains about it. We have had no incidents; we didn’t even have to mark out parking bays. At first, we held our breath to see what would happen, but we found people were quite sensible.”
St Wilfrid’s, Harrogate, also uses the company to rent spaces to visitors to the popular spa town, while attracting people to look around the Grade I listed church. “The parking income helps to support the running costs of the church, which, as a listed building, are significant,” the church’s facilities and commercial manager, Rebecca Oliver, said. “It’s a straightforward and affordable way for a church to monetise its car park, without having to spend a lot of time managing it.”
Both churches stipulate on the system when space is available.
The managing director of YourParkingSpace, Harrison Woods, said: “Churches offering their empty parking spaces makes perfect financial sense. The extra income is just one benefit, as a busy car park deters anti-social behaviour, while visitors could also be tempted to have a look around the church if it is allowed.”
Since last year, the company has been working with Trees for the Future to plant one tree for every monthly parking space booked on its site.
Huddersfield church car park plans disputed. Plans to turn the church green of St Peter’s, Huddersfield, into an event space, including a car park, have been met with anger by Huddersfield Civic Society, local media reports, writes Hattie Williams.
The PCC of the Parish Church of St Peter’s submitted a planning application in November last year to create a new church entrance as part of plans to encourage use of the building as a venue. Because the church no longer has a carpark, the plans ask that one be developed on a green space beside the church, on which memorial headstones are currently positioned.
The secretary of the Civic Society, Martin Kilburn, said that the application undermined the local council’s £250 million “green agenda”. “Not only do the proposals involve removal of green space, they also require extension of the types of vehicle allowed into the square to include private vehicles for staff and parishioners.”
The Vicar of Huddersfield, Canon Rachel Firth, told local media, however: “We are confident that the changes we seek to make will only improve the area around the church for everyone. We have consulted with the council and we hope to gain consent to adapt the area as a multi-use performance and event area. This is entirely consistent with the desire of both the church and council to ensure the use of green space which the Kirklees Blueprint seeks to promote.
“The adaptation will include parking, but will not be dominated by it. We are also confident this project will make huge improvements to the accessibility of the church for all visitors, be that for church services, heritage visitors, or to any of the concerts or church events.”