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Weekend congestion charge ‘a threat to Little Italy’

Islington’s Italian community fear extension will keep many away from historic church

19 June, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

A parade passes St Peter’s in Clerkenwell Road

ISLINGTON’S “Little Italy” will be “decimated” by the extension of the congestion charge at weekends, a member of the Italian community has warned.

The area around Clerkenwell, Farringdon Road and Roseberry Avenue gained its nickname as generations of Italians settled there in the 19th century.

The St Peter’s Italian Catholic church, built in 1863, has continued to be the “spiritual and cultural home” for Italians even as rising house prices have pushed many of the original community out of the area.

For decades the Italian community has come together around the social club linked to the church on weekends, with many of the elderly driving in.

But the tradition is now at risk from the extension of the congestion charge, set to be introduced on Monday, according to Modesto Tondelli, a St Peter’s Social Club committee member.

He told the Tribune: “The decision to extend the London congestion charge for travel during these times will mean that many will have to reconsider visits to what has been their spiritual and cultural home since they or their ancestors arrived in London.

Social distancing measures inside the church

“The impact will be compounded by the fact that the elderly cannot, or, following Covid-19, will be too scared to travel by public transport.

“This tax will decimate the Italian community in Clerkenwell.

“This would be in addition to the negative and punitive effect on the restaurant and hospitality businesses in central London where many of our community work.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan confirmed this week that the congestion charge will rise to £15 next week and apply in the evenings and at weekends in a bid to tackle rising levels of traffic in the capital and plug a financial black hole in TfL’s (Transport for London’s) finances.

The changes mean the charge will apply from 7am-10pm from Monday June 22, seven days a week. At present it is in force between 7am and 6pm on weekdays.

NHS workers were already exempt and this has been temporarily widened to include care home workers, London Ambulance staff and council and charity workers involved in the pandemic response.

The change is classed as temporary, but Mr Khan has not put a date on when it will return to normal levels.

St Peter’s Italian Catholic church

Last month TfL agreed a £1.6billion bailout deal with the government.

Mayor Khan blames the C-charge rise on a clause built into this deal, which the government has denied.

Former finance director Mr Tondelli, 71, said: “It seems that everyone is abdicating responsibility for this decision, with central government blaming Transport for London and the Mayor of London; whilst they are saying that they are acting under the government’s instructions.”

Christina Calderato, TfL’s head of strategy and planning, said: “These temporary changes to the congestion charge are to ensure that London’s recovery from the pandemic is sustainable and safe.

“They will reduce traffic in central London making it safer for people to walk or cycle and keeping the bus network, which undergoes rigorous daily cleaning with high-strength anti-viral disinfectant, reliable for those who need to use it.

“We will contact St Peter’s Church to explain the changes and options available to members of their community, including any relevant discounts and exemptions such as the Blue Badge and Cleaner Vehicle Discount. People living in the zone who need to drive are now able to make new applications for the residents’ discount before the extended deadline of 1 August.”

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