An African evangelist church in south London may be forced to close because it is too popular.

Southwark council has upheld a planning complaint against the Christ Apostolic church in Southwark Park Road, Bermondsey, because of complaints about noise and parking.

A notice is to be issued forcing the church to cease worship from next month. The evangelists took over the old St Andrew's church last November. The congregation paid some of the 100,000 pounds cost of the building and refurbishment, with the rest coming from a Barclays bank loan.

Kola Adeniyi, a church elder, said that the council originally told them there was no need for planning permission as the building had previously been used as church. 'In the light of that we went ahead and refurbished it. Then the neigbours started complaining that we were making a lot of noise.'

The church has curtailed its all-night Friday vigils and holds just two Sunday services and bible study classes.

'The council advised us to do something about the noise insulation, so we spent another pounds 20,000 on that,' said Mr Adeniyi. 'Then the neighbours complained about the parking. We bought a minibus and encouraged people to leave their cars at home. With the minibus we shall spending over pounds 140,000.

'We have done everything possible, but we think the council are just bent on getting us out. We are seeking legal advice'.

Southwark council said that the elders were only told verbally they may not need planning permission and advised to put their request in writing, which they failed to do. The church will be able to appeal against the enforcement notice.