SUNDAY parking is to remain free but be capped at two hours in the city centre under a new shake-up revealed today.
New restrictions would see shoppers have to display a ticket at no cost - but face a fine if they do not move their car in time.
It signals the end of unlimited all-day parking on a Sunday with the city council aiming to boost trade by tackling the problem of bay-blockers.
However, the proposed time limit of two hours - which is less than the weekday restrictions of three to four hours - is likely to prove controversial.
Church congregations would be protected from the new controls with fines only coming into force after 1pm. Re-parking in a nearby bay to avoid a ticket would also be allowed.
Today, transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds insisted there was a groundswell of support to change the parking status quo on Sundays.
And she stressed proposals had not been set in stone and any decision would be taken after a six-month consultation with businesses and churches.
“We have been thinking about how can we increase turnover in the parking spaces being used in the city centre because a lot of people will come in at around 11 o’clock and just park all day,” said Cllr Hinds.
“Traders say that a lot of cars will sit there all day, which is not good for business because they don’t get a turn-over of customers.
“So we are considering whether we could have something where you get a free ticket for two hours on a Sunday after noon or 1pm because some of the churches were very unhappy.
“We are suggesting that there are no charges to park on a Sunday but we are looking to impose some restrictions because if you come into town on a Sunday everyone’s parked all over the place. Restrictions are only in place six days a week and we want to keep the traffic flowing and not cause blockages and problems.”
Motorists must move their car elsewhere from pay and display bays in the city centre after a maximum allowance of four hours from Monday to Saturday.
The central “core” of the Capital – including Princes Street, George Street, Queen Street, St Andrew Square, Charlotte Square, Cockburn Street and Market Street – impose enforcements after three hours.
Parking charges were first introduced into the Capital in 1973 and enforced by Lothian and Borders Police for more than 20 years.
In 1998, the city council began enforcing restrictions – but Sundays always remained exempt, and no charges were enforced for bay parking.
But as the popularity of Sunday trading has increased, city chiefs believe free parking “may not be maximising the economic benefits to retailers and other businesses” and have pledged to introduce more buses to meet the demand.
A vision for Edinburgh’s transport network, drafted by senior official Mark Turley, describes how the Capital’s parking restrictions “date back to before Sunday trading became widespread” and suggests that the city centre on the Sabbath operates in the same way as the rest of the week.
He writes: “Free parking on Sundays may not be maximising the economic benefits to retailers and other businesses, as not all the parking is by customers, there is a lack of control [that] reduces the turnover of parking spaces, and buses and general traffic experience delays on some routes. To deal with the current situation, some degree of Sunday parking controls is being considered.”
The News first mooted plans for Sunday parking charges in January, sparking outrage from church groups concerned about limiting transport opportunities for elderly congregations. Three petitions opposing the changes were then lodged at City Chambers by St Mary’s Cathedral (218 signatures), the Chapter House Singers (15) and the Scottish Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd (21).
Transport chiefs now appear to have stepped back from breaking a long-held tradition and abandoning free parking in favour of a compromise option that has garnered some support. From a string of public consultations the city found 55 per cent of those polled voted to maintain free public parking on a Sunday but a sizable minority – 41 per cent – backed beefing up restrictions in “some form”.
Around 16 per cent of people were supportive of an option to extend yellow line restrictions – imposed Monday to Saturday – to include Sundays, but only on main bus corridors. Motorists can park in designated bays and on single yellow lines on a Sunday, but double yellows, disabled spaces and diplomatic bays are still enforced.
In 2011-2012, the council generated income worth £11,129,031 from pay and display machines, £2,222,474 from RingGo and £1,937,295 from resident permits.
‘I don’t have to stress about getting a ticket’
We asked two drivers who regularly take advantage of free parking all day on Sundays in the city centre what they thought about the move.
• Jessica Lindsay, 19, a student from Southside, said: “On a Sunday, my friends and I love to drive into town, get coffee and indulge in a bit of retail therapy.
“The new parking laws will disrupt this, meaning we’re always worrying about how long we’ve got left to move the car.
“If we want to go watch a film we’ll have to leave before it ends in order to make sure no parking fines are incurred.
“The traffic wardens in Edinburgh are too zealous and don’t listen even if you’re only a minute over.
“It will make me use public transport more, though, which I suppose is good for the environment and the city’s congestion problems.
“I’m glad they’re still keeping it free but it’s going to be quite annoying.”
• Sarah Tolan, 32, from Meadowbank, said: “For me free parking, like roast beef, is a Sunday mainstay.
“It’s ideal when I’m looking to take time out and have a meander through the city centre.
“Over the past few years, travelling around Edinburgh city centre has been stressful between the tram works and assorted road works.
“But Sundays have been less affected, thanks in part to free parking.
“At the moment, a Sunday is the one day I can take my car into the city and not have to stress about getting a ticket.
“It may have become harder to get a space over the years, as people park in spaces all day. But I’ve found there to be enough of a turnover of parking spaces throughout Sundays and have always managed to find a space eventually.”
Towards a seamless system
The new transport vision for Edinburgh over the next five years will be debated next week at the City Chambers.
As well as new restrictions on Sunday parking, proposals will include masterminding the integrated transport network.
Under the proposals, the council will pledge to work towards a structure where using public transport is as easy as possible and transport operates as “one seamless system”.
An increased budget for additional bus services will also be investigated in a bid to boost or maintain services where commercial provision of services is infrequent or non-existent.
Recommendations will also see the council go ahead with a programme of reducing the speed limit on the urban road network to 30mph to encourage drivers to go more slowly.
Measures would include new road markings, such as cycle lanes, and physical restrictions such as pedestrian islands.
The transport and environment committee will consider the options on Tuesday.