Parking at High Beach

Introduction

High Beach Church is an icon of Epping Forest - a popular landmark and place to gather – for worship, celebration, culture, history, companionship and to enjoy the peaceful and beautiful environment of High Beach. Its history is bound up with the history of the Forest, and, with one of the youngest and most vibrant congregations in the Diocese, it bucks the trend of ageing parish churches.  

But, if current parking issues continue, there is a very real risk that the church will simply fail. The congregation will disperse, the events will end – and the church will inevitably fall into disrepair. The culture, history and community of the Forest will be poorer for its loss. 

This is a fundamental crisis for the church, for the community life of High Beach and for the life of Epping Forest

We want to work creatively with the City of London and Essex County Council to find a solution to this problem – one which hopefully will be long lasting and potentially create benefits for both.

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A typical year....

Before the COVID crisis, in a typical year the church was holding:

  • 160 regular services on Thursdays and Sundays
  • 20 popular Afternoon Teas on Sunday afternoons during the summer, attended by walkers and visitors, but also by many isolated elderly people for whom it is a lifeline,
  • 24 concerts by a range of local choirs and award-winning musicians, as part of the Christmas celebrations, the Loughton Festival, Remembrance Day and summer events, events for walkers, cyclists and horse riders,
  • 21 other activity days and events, including All Hallows, a Christmas market, 
  • 23 weddings,
  • 12 funerals and memorial services, 
  • 42 baptisms.

The church is also closely linked to the village primary school and there are many shared events, school services at the church and educational links between the school and the church.

The average weekly attendance for regular services was 118

Why is parking important?

There is no public transport to the church – there are no bus services in the area. High Beach village itself is spread out and the walk from the main village residential areas at Mott Street, Lippitts Hill and Pye Nest Green Lane are a mile walk up steep hills, with no pavements. This makes walking difficult for those with mobility problems and unsafe for people with young children. Disabled bays may help to some extent, but many older people do not have blue badges, and disabled bays restrict further the few spaces we have.

The current congregation comes from High Beach, but also Waltham Abbey, Epping, Woodford and Chingford. Many of the congregation are elderly and some have disabilities, but also there are many with small children. 

Without available parking, the church would simply be inaccessible for most of the congregation, including local parishioners, who have a legal right to worship, get married and have their funeral at their local church. It would certainly be inaccessible for most people who attend events and celebrations.

Once COVID restrictions are lifted, it will not be possible for many people to attend the church for services, for weddings, funerals, baptisms, and for afternoon teas, concerts, Christmas events and activity days.

Without parking available, the church will cease to function in any meaningful way.

Impact on the church building

Aside from the tragedy of the end of such a vibrant community, there is the very real prospect that the church will fall quickly into disrepair. 

As well as the day to day running costs of the church, we have to pay for the maintenance of the building, the organ, the bells and the churchyard.  In the 5 years prior to COVID, maintenance and repairs cost over £90,000. *We have no endowment. We have very limited reserves. If work is to be done, we need to fundraise for it.

With a limited congregation, reduced events, weddings, funerals, we will not be able to maintain the church and churchyard as it currently is. There is no other source of income. The church will inevitably fall into disrepair.

The current parking situation

A temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) was implemented by the North Essex Parking Partnership (NEPP) in High Beech, in Epping Forest, on 22nd May 2020, to support the coronavirus restrictions.** The TRO included a system of urban red lines for the whole of the High Beach area, which we believe is the first of its kind for a rural area.

This was implemented for a period of 18 months without consultation due to the large numbers of people coming to the Forest as lockdown measures were lifted.  

NEPP have told us that they plan to consult on making this scheme permanent after the May elections

Following the implementation of the TRO, members of the PCC met with the City of London and North Essex Parking Partnership. It was agreed that the red lines along the boundary wall on Church Lane and Avey Lane would be removed, and it was understood to have been agreed by the City and the church, that no enforcement activity in the vicinity of the church on Sunday mornings. With a small parking bay opposite, this allowed for space for about 12 cars to park near the church off the red lines. This is a step in the right direction  but…

  • There is not enough parking to make the church viable
    The church requires at least 40 spaces to be viable
     
  • Parking spaces are not restricted for church users  
    As the pressure on parking spaces across the Forest increases, the spaces outside the church are full with other Forest users
     
  • NEPP has continued to enforce against church users at other times, including people using the church for funerals and weddings
    NEPP have told us that there is they will continue to enforce against people using the church at other times, including for funerals and weddings.

The long-term options:

We recognise that the old system of parking around the church is less than ideal. It can cause damage to verges around the Forest and we would like to have a better option

We are keen to work with the City of London, Epping Forest District Council and Essex County Council to find a creative solution to the parking issue.

We are meeting with with local representatives to discuss options of creating more permanent solutions along Church Lane and ways of giving enabling the church to protect parking spaces – but there is no easy solution.

Until a solution is found, we believe that Urban Red Lines will damage the cultural life, heritage and the spiritual life of the Forest, and should not go ahead.

*** 30th April Update ***

Following a meeting with the North Essex Parking Partnership, the church has been promised 40 parking bays on the roads around the church. However, we are as yet to receive any confirmation of this in writing and we are unclear of where these bays would be, as the roads are quite narrow. We are waiting for confirmation from NEPP and full details of any plans.

 


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