‘Noisy church’ row could go to watchdog

Billinge residents protesting about the noise pollution and parking issues near Billinge Family Church
Billinge residents protesting about the noise pollution and parking issues near Billinge Family Church
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Angry residents locked in a bitter dispute with a neighbouring church are preparing to take the row to the local government Ombudsman.

They believe their case - which centres on the felling of numerous trees on the grounds of Billinge Family Church - is strong enough to warrant intervention by the watchdog.

Billinge Family Church been based in Coppice Road since the early 1980s

Billinge Family Church been based in Coppice Road since the early 1980s

Homeowners in the Coppice Road area of Billinge have been involved in an increasingly rancorous dispute with church leaders over noise and parking.

The arguments reached such proportions that Wigan Council’s chief executive Donna Hall personally intervened, setting up a mediation process between the warring parties.

However, talks collapsed last year with the church’s executive pastor Mike Kerry branding protestors and their representatives as “unreasonable”.

At the height of the row, residents were staging weekly protests, which have since ceased, prompting legal threats from the church’s solicitors.

Residents came to me with a long list of concerns about this church and it has been a very long process, going back many, many years

Coun Stephen Murphy

Now they are preparing a file to send to the Ombudsman asking for an investigation into why the church was allowed to fell a number of trees, which they claim had protected status.

Coun Stephen Murphy, who is supporting the residents’ cause, says any Ombudsman probe should focus on the council’s role in the dispute.

He said council boss Ms Hall agreed to fund the mediation but later accused him of “inciting residents”.

“Residents came to me with a long list of concerns about this church and it has been a very long process, going back many, many years,” added Coun Murphy.

He believes the Ombudsman should scrutinise the council’s role in the decision to allow a number of trees to be felled.

“We want to know if a tree protection officer’s report was effectively ignored and if a second, external report was commissioned,” said Coun Murphy. “Residents have had to put up with noise from services, which have involved live bands, and cars from parishioners causing parking problems.”

Ms Hall said: “We are disappointed in the residents’ proposed action, but we acknowledge they are within their rights to make their representations.

“Despite best attempts to foster a better relationship between residents and the church this has not yet been possible but we will continue to support both sides to try and find an amicable solution and would urge residents to engage with Billinge Family Church who have opened their doors to conversations on any issues that concern them.”

No-one from the church was available for comment at the time of going to press.