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West End parishioners outraged at council plan to remove car parks across from church

St Francis Hall: The hall is regularly used by a dozen local groups including the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Pro-Musica community band and choir, Active Ageing, Alcoholics Anonymous and The Studio, a dance group for children.

INNER-city Brisbane parishioners are outraged at a council proposal to limit access to their historic West End church and community hall in favour of cyclists.

“It’s very unfair. It’s come out of nowhere. Everybody is aghast,” St Francis of Assisi Church parishioner Marian Bhasin said.

Dozens of daily church attendees – many elderly and disabled – will be inconvenienced by a Brisbane City Council plan to remove 115 street car parks and two bus stops directly in front of and across from the St Francis Church on Dornoch Terrace as part of a project designed to improve bike safety.

“I can’t imagine these people parking somewhere and having to walk a distance,” Mrs Bhasin said.

“And the removal of the bus stops – that’s really inconsiderate.

“I can’t see how they can hold this whole street to ransom on this so-called safety issue.”

The plan is to create continuous bike lanes on both sides of the street that is a busy cycling route and was the scene of a car-bike crash in 2017.

St Francis has been at heart of West End community life since the church was built in 1927. 

The St Francis hall is regularly used by a dozen local groups including the St Vincent de Paul Society, the Pro-Musica community band and choir, Active Ageing, Alcoholics Anonymous and The Studio, a dance group for children.

“It’s a place of worship and service, and it’s viability is really threatened by this,” parishioner and local St Vincent de Paul Society conference president John O’Gorman said.

“I just don’t know how many people will continue to come to Mass if they have to walk there.

“The problem is sports cyclists coming down Dornoch Terrace at least at the 50km/h speed limit and in some cases greater than that.” 

Mr O’Gorman suggested speed bumps could limit cycle speed down to about 30km/h.

“I think that would be the way to go – to see if the safety problem can be tackled,” he said.

Dutton Park parish secretary Bernadette Maguire has appealed in a letter to BCC that “whilst we are duly concerned for the safety of the cyclists, the plan, in its present format, is totally unacceptable to the wider community”.

“The community groups that utilise St Francis hall on a weekly basis provide much-needed support and rely heavily on the ability to park and have access to public transport, not only for the elderly but the lower socio-economic attendees that do not have access to their own transport,” Mrs Maguire said.

Greens councillor Jonathan Sri said the safety concept plan was drafted by BCC public servants and he had not yet formed a view “on exactly what elements of the project I will or won’t support”.

 “I’ll be conducting my own detailed consultation with residents, including a follow-up survey/community vote,” he said.

LNP Councillor Krista Adams said BCC was consulting with residents about proposed changes to improve cyclist safety in Dornoch Terrace, Highgate Hill.

“This is a draft concept plan only for a project which was specifically requested by The Greens Councillor for The Gabba ward Jonathan Sri,” she said.

“All residents, including businesses and community organisations, including St Francis Church in Highgate Hill, have been encouraged to have their say on the proposal during the consultation period which finished on October 25.

“The views of local residents in Highgate Hill, including petitions and individual submissions will be a strong factor in determining if Council proceeds with the project, which is why all residents have all been encouraged to have their say.

“Council will continue to liaise closely with the Highgate Hill community to ensure they are aware of the ongoing consideration of Cr Sri’s proposed project.”

A council project group is reviewing the public submissions to its draft concept plan.

St Francis parish submitted a letter of opposition signed by 185 parishioners. 

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