Churches ‘can’t get special treatment on parking’

CHURCH leaders appealing for a rethink on city plans to introduce new restrictions on the Capital’s tradition of free Sunday parking have been told that Edinburgh is a “secular city”.
Charlotte Chapel. Picture: Kate ChandlerCharlotte Chapel. Picture: Kate Chandler
Charlotte Chapel. Picture: Kate Chandler

Paul Rees, senior pastor at the Charlotte Chapel on Rose Street, and Derek Lamont, free church minister at St Columba’s on Johnston Terrace, addressed transport chiefs yesterday arguing that lifting free Sunday parking would hit attendances on the pews and “threaten” the city’s Christian communities.

But after making an impassioned plea, they were told by deputy transport leader Adam McVey that the concerns of just one faith could not be allowed to influence city policy.

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Speaking to councillors, Pastor Rees said his church, which welcomes over 1000 worshippers every week, plays a valuable role in the community with charity work that could be undermined by parking charges.

He said: “Having vital living congregations in the city centre is not only an important factor in maintaining the historic architecture of this city but it also nurtures and supports society.

“I think all this will be threatened by imposing Sunday parking charges.”

Mr Rees added that it was unreasonable to expect families with children to use public transport to go to church on Sunday, and said support staff travelling from outside Edinburgh would struggle to pay for parking.

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He said: “Parking costs for many of them for three or four hours would be prohibitive, and would have a damaging effect on 
our city centre churches.

“At the moment there is still a different character to Sunday that adds a different dimension to our life in this city, and I think it would be undermined by treating it as just another day of the week.”

Responding to the appeal, councillors voiced concerns that protecting Sunday parking in response to the plea from church leaders could fall foul of equalities legislation.

Deputy transport convener councillor Adam McVey said: “I think it’s worth mentioning that we’re a secular city.

“No religion has a hierarchy in terms of making representations and the effect that has on our policy making.”