Congestion charge hike: Farm Street speaks up for churchgoers

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ was interviewed by BBC London News about the reopening of Farm Street Church and the effect the increased congestion charge could have on attendance and church life

For weeks Mass has looked very different at Farm Street Church in central London. During the pandemic it’s been streamed online. Soon the congregation will be allowed back but Fr Dominic is worried that the congestion charge means that some won’t return.

Fr Dominic said: “Just about all of our congregation, 1,200 at the weekend, would come from outside and come into the congestion zone. They come here because they have a sense of belonging to the community, which obviously at this time after the lockdown, people are coming back with trauma, with difficulties.”

One member of the congregation interviewed said: “We’re a family of five. We travel in every Sunday. For us to have to pay the congestion charge, or to have to go buy public transport, will have quite a direct financial impact on us.”

Faith leaders have written to the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to have a rethink about the extension of the £15 congestion charge to weekends and until 10 o’clock at night. They say it’s not just worshippers that will be affected by the introduction of the congestion charge at the weekends but social outreach programmes as well, like helping the homeless, as well as the arts and cultural events that take places in churches.

The Mayor’s office says he will respond to all communities who have raised concerns but there are fears that it could cause long term problems.

Fr Dominic said: “If people stop coming to church then everything we’re about which contributes to the cultural and social life of the city may well be jeopardised as well.”