Church revolt over bid to end free Sunday parking

Rev Ian Gilmour says axing free Sunday parking would 'damage the Christian community' in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Rev Ian Gilmour says axing free Sunday parking would 'damage the Christian community' in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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CHURCH leaders will urge parishioners to revolt against plans to scrap free Sunday parking amid claims the move will decimate congregations.

The clergy are united in opposition to the proposals that would charge motorists for street parking on the Sabbath for the first time in decades.

Today, a swathe of Edinburgh clerics have revealed they will instruct worshippers to campaign against the controversial charges.

Reverend Ian Gilmour, of St Andrew’s and St George’s West, said the axing of free Sunday parking would “damage the Christian community” in Edinburgh and said he will call on “all our members and every congregation in the city” to voice their objections.

He said: “I plan on mentioning that to all of our three dedicated worship services closer to the time when the council announces plans for this next consultation.”

Rev Gilmour said he could agree to partial restrictions – charging for afternoon parking, for example – but Sunday mornings should be free.

Parishioners will be encouraged to lobby their local councillors to demonstrate their strength of feeling against the proposals.

Pastor Paul Rees, of Rose Street’s Charlotte Chapel, said free Sunday parking meant the city centre was “not merely a place of commerce but also of community and spiritual worship”.

“There is still a different character to Sunday that offers another vital dimension to life in our city which would be undermined by treating it as simply another day in the week,” he said.

The city argues that free parking was appropriate for an era when shops were closed on the Sabbath but with Sunday shopping growing ever more popular uncontrolled parking was now obstructing traffic and sparking delays in the city centre.

However, Pastor Wayne Sutton of High Street church Carrubers, said the move would be “disastrous” and have an “extremely significant negative effect” on their congregation.

Judith Lewis, secretary at St Mary’s Cathedral in Palmerston Place, said worshippers shouldn’t have to worry about paying for parking on a Sunday. “Through our regular magazine, we will be urging every member of our congregation to contact their councillors and voice their opinions,” she said.

Father Jim Crapsey, of the Catholic Church of Sacred Heart in Lauriston, said elderly and disabled people “rely heavily” on free Sunday parking.

Others questioned why the city was not introducing bus services to offset expensive parking restrictions.

Councillor Lesley Hinds defended the plans – which have gone out for public consultation – arguing that parking fees would help reduce traffic congestion.

She said: “Increased parking controls on Sundays is something the council is exploring as a means of potentially reducing traffic, improving the environment for pedestrians and cyclists as well as increasing turnover and footfall for businesses in the city centre.”