Church row could end in court battle

Billinge resident Michael Comerfod is protesting about the noise pollution and parking issues caused by visitors to Billinge Family Church
Billinge resident Michael Comerfod is protesting about the noise pollution and parking issues caused by visitors to Billinge Family Church

A dispute between a popular borough church and some of its neighbours could wind up in court unless a last-minute resolution can be found.

A number of residents have staged weekly protests outside Billinge Family Church on Crank Road for the past two years complaining about noise and light pollution, and parking problems.

Billinge Family Church.

Billinge Family Church.

They have pledged to continue their campaign after the church won a planning appeal to extend its car park and building.

Church leaders have told the Reporter they could take out an injunction to stop the weekly protests.

Michael Comerford, who heads the informal protest group, said around 250 people had sent in written objections to the church’s extension plans.

“Noise is perhaps the biggest problem that elderly residents have to tolerate,” he said. “It is also one of the main reasons we have protested outside the church for two years.”

The 71-year-old retired electrician, of Coppice Road, said the church had caused problems with noise and parking for many years but matters came to a head two years ago when it staged an African-themed music day.

“That weekend was the ‘straw which broke the camel’s back’ as far as the long-suffering residents were concerned,” said Mr Comerford.

The protestors have made several complaints to Wigan Council about noise, although each investigation found no evidence of excessive noise. The church says its extension was intended to eradicate the problem of parishioners parking on Crank Road.

An independent Christian church, it regularly stages concerts but executive pastor Mike Kerry said the church had invested heavily in sound-proofing the building.

He added: “We just want to be good neighbours and we’re prepared to invest money on things like extending the car park and sound-proofing.

“But there comes a point where if the protests continue we will have to seek independent civil legal action in the form of an injunction.

“The point will arrive fairly soon if this continues.”

Of the threatened injunction, Mr Comerford said: “It’s not going to stop us at all.

“We would be glad to go to court.”