Nick Cook: Edinburgh needs a day of rest from parking charges

File picture: Ian Georgeson

File picture: Ian Georgeson

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THE introduction of parking charges on a Sunday will leave Edinburgh socially and economically poorer, argues Nick Cook.

SUNDAY parking charges are to be introduced in the Capital for the first time.

This decision came despite strong efforts of church groups, businesses and Conservative councillors to have the brakes slammed on this misguided policy.

I am more convinced than ever that Sunday parking charges are more about swelling council coffers than improving matters for Edinburgh’s people or economy.

Why else would the council administration insist on driving through a policy which was so vigorously opposed by more than 80 per cent of respondents to its own public consultation?

A consultation which garnered a higher interest – and greater response rate – than most others the council bothers to carry out.

There are those who argue that Sunday is now just “any other day”. Only it quite clearly is not. The churches who have voiced such big concerns remain a key pillar of our society. And I say this having never really found faith myself.

The important role the churches play, particularly in the city centre, where they can so easily reach out to Edinburgh’s metropolitan array of people – of all faiths and none – shouldn’t be underestimated.

This role includes the charity work and support for societies most vulnerable. Healthy congregation numbers are central to this and will be negatively affected on by Sunday parking charges, even with the concession that they don’t begin until 12.30pm.

But these proposals are bad for business too. Concerns have been voiced by organisations as to the negative impact Sunday parking charges will have on city centre footfall and, ultimately, the amount of hard-earned cash spent in our shops, restaurants and cafes.

Business – and, in fairness, the Council – have worked hard to reverse the decline of the city centre seen after the tram works disaster. Sunday parking charges jeopardises this success and is unnecessary.

Some would say the stage-managed partial climb-down, which sees the introduction of charges only in the afternoon, somewhat tempers these concerns.

But the die has been cast. I’m willing to bet that, before long, Sunday parking charges will apply all day. And like current parking charges, they will continue to rise. And rise. And rise...

Car use in Edinburgh is already falling. Public transport use is climbing and bucking the national trend in doing so. Cycling and walking are also on the up.

Which just exposes the introduction of Sunday charging for what it really is.

A draconian measure designed to generate money for a cash-strapped council.

Nick Cook is Conservative councillor in the Liberton/Gilmerton ward