Church warns on Sunday parking charges

CHURCHGOERS are challenging a proposal to introduce Sunday car parking charges in a Suffolk town amid fears it could have a detrimental effect on congregations.

CHURCHGOERS are challenging a proposal to introduce Sunday car parking charges in a Suffolk town amid fears it could have a detrimental effect on congregations.

A 36-signature petition has been handed to St Edmundsbury Borough Council in a bid to dissuade cabinet members from making people pay to park seven days a week in Bury St Edmunds.

Last night, the Rev Val Spencer, minister at the town's Trinity Methodist Church, said she feared the move would force people to effectively pay in order to go to church.

“At the moment parking is free in Bury, but introducing charges on a Sunday would have an adverse effect on the town,” she said.


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“Of course I am hoping that it will not put people off from coming to church, and we do not think the churches should have special provisions made for them, but this will affect everyone, including shoppers, and will be a huge cost to the council.

“So we put together the petition, which was also signed by other congregations in the town, in a bid to make the council realise there is opposition to its plans.”

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But cabinet member Nigel Aitkens said, if given the go-ahead, the charges would only come into force at around 1pm on Sundays.

“There is currently a lack of discipline in the town centre on a Sunday, and people seem to park anywhere, making it very dangerous for pedestrians,” he said.

“People do not use the car parks, and there is almost more traffic in the town centre on a Sunday than there is during the week.

“But in order to reach the level of enforcement that is required to make people park their cars sensibly, a small fee could be introduced in the town's car parks.”

In order for the council to introduce the fees, it first plans to set up a decriminalised parking enforcement scheme, meaning it could do the job of the traffic wardens in order to keep costs to a minimum.

Mr Aitkens said: “It is certainly not our intention to deter people from visiting the town on a Sunday, and the charges would come into force at lunch time so people going to church would not in fact have to pay to park.

“But it is a question of bringing more management into the town centre to make it safer for pedestrians.”

lisa.cleverdon@eadt.co.uk

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