A PLAN for a new church three times the size of the existing building is causing worry to residents in Pinehurst.

The Diocese of Clifton wants permission from Swindon Borough Council planners to build a replacement for St Mary’s Church in Tovey Road. It wants to build a much bigger building than the current church, which it says is too small for the congregation, in the car park. The existing church building will then be used as the parish hall.

But families who live behind the church, in Portal Road, are worried.

Caroline Robinson, 55, lives directly behind the church and she thinks the new building will tower over her back garden.

She said: “There used to be trees at the back here, which the church had to cut down, and the trees at the back of the car park will have to be cut down for the new church. It’ll be huge and will totally block out the light from the back here.

Miss Robinson’s partner Graham Bell, 56, added: “We don’t have a problem with the church, or the people who attend it, it’s just the size of the building and blocking the light.

“And the parking is an issue as well.”

The size of the congregation attending the church, which holds about 150 people at the moment, means its car park, which holds about 55 cars, is not big enough.

Miss Robinson said: “People on a Sunday park in this road, they park in Tovey Road, they park on the grass in the park. They park everywhere.”

Neighbour Paula Posner said: “I've counted 92 cars in that car park during a service, and there were still cars parked everywhere. The plans say there will only be about 40 spaces for cars if the new church is built in the car park.

Another resident, Sharon Goodman, said: “Where are all the other cars going to go? There have already been two or three occasions when the emergency services haven’t been able to get through because of the congestions and the cars parked everywhere.”

A side issue is occasional conflict between worshippers parking their car and the local children who play on the green space.

Mr Bell said: "The people going to church park on Tovey Road and they park on the grass, and then they can be rude to the kids. They tell them they can’t play there because they might kick a ball into their car.

“They tell them to play further down, but then you’ve got young children playing out, but their mums and dads can’t keep an eye on them and they don’t know where they are.”

The residents said they believed the diocese, which sold land it owned next door to the borough council for the Mountbatten House sheltered accommodation blocks, should find another place for its new church which can more easily cope with a congregation of 300 to 400 people.

Mrs Posner said: “This is the only Catholic church for quite a big area and if so many people are coming here from far away, it means they don’t have anything nearby. This area is packed in, the church can find another area for this.”

The residents say they will be contacting their local councillors and will be hoping the church’s plans are turned down by the borough council.

Father Michael McAndrew, the parish priest at St Mary’s, said: “On a Sunday you can see dozens of the congregation walking here down the roads. If we find another area, if they don’t have cars, they would be penalised.

“We are trying to do something about the parking issue, and if we get a new church, the existing church would be used as a hall by all members of the community – there isn’t one now – and I hope everyone would benefit from that.”