COMMUTERS are forcing a church to send out its verger at the crack of dawn to stop them parking outside the gates when it has weddings and funerals booked.

The priest-in-charge at St Michael’s Church, in Mile End Road, Colchester, says the situation is getting worse, as more drivers park there to avoid station parking charges.

Commuters thought to be trying to avoid charges at Colchester North Station are leaving cars in Mile End Road and surrounding streets – even though it is a mile’s walk to the station.

The Rev Raymond Gibbs said: “My colleague, the verger Rupert Dix, gets up at six in the morning to put cones out.

“They are not enforceable – we just hope people are conscientious and don’t park there.

“They park from seven in the morning until about 9pm, so they are there all day and make sure no one else can come to the church.

“We are getting about eight or nine cars every morning now. I think the problem is parking costs.

“It has only really happened in the past six months and the situation has got worse. I don’t know why, but they have moved further and further up Mile End Road.”

Mile End borough councillor Martin Goss said several residents had approached him to complain about people parking in the area, to avoid paying the £6.60 daily peak charge to park at the station.

He said: “The ridiculously high prices for this car park mean a number of commuters are parking further and further away in local residential streets.

“The car park is never full because of the cost of parking, so, of course, local streets are full and brimming with commuters.

“Parking restrictions are in place for roads closer to the station, but local residents will be unhappy if we are forced to cover all of Mile End in yellow paint! It just isn’t feasible.”

A National Express East Anglia spokesman said: “Car park charges at Colchester North Station are comparable with similar local authority car parks in the area and all-day parking rates are cheaper in comparison with many car parks in the town centre, for example.

“For those travelling to the station by other means, National Express East Anglia has worked closely with both Colchester Council and Essex County Council in developing a Station Travel Plan for Colchester, helping to improve access to public transport through good interchange facilities and encouraging walking and cycling to the station.

“We will continue to work with our partners to provide the right mix of car parking, cycle facilities and good links with other forms of public transport.”