EDINBURGH council bosses have been slated for “treating motorists like a cash cow” after voting to bring in Sunday parking charges.
At present parking in the capital is free on Sundays – bringing hundreds of shoppers, sightseers and daytrippers to the streets of the city.
But at a meeting on Tuesday Edinburgh bosses decided to begin charging nearly £20 a day for the privilege.
The move has attracted harsh criticism from religious groups and business leaders alike – who fear the steep costs may put people off travelling to town.
Others have pointed out that Edinburgh Council have introduced the charges after a year when they have run a £17.4m profit on parking – bigger than any other council in Scotland.
The decision yesterday set in stone specific plans to charge between 12.30pm and 6.00pm in the central zones beginning in 2018.
Some areas of the city centre cost £3.60 an hour to park – meaning that drivers will be expected to fork out £19.80 for the five and a half hours of parking.
Gordon Henderson – of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) – said the organisation had campaigned against the move, but “the fight is lost now”.
He added: “Small businesses are disproportionately affected by changes like this that might cause a change in footfall.
“If there is lower footfall small businesses might not open on Sundays anymore.”
A spokesman for the AA echoed fears that the new plans could put people off by the new charges, but said “the proof will be in the pudding”.
Speaking about the council, he said: “They have got a bit of a track record for trying to milk the driver.
He went on: ”The other issues is if you’re a more vulnerable road user – you’re elderly, infirm, pregnant or you’ve got small children – this particular parking measure will penalise you.
“You may not be the kind of person who can take a park and ride bus in.”
In the past week church leaders have also said the new charges could see the “life knocked out” of their congregations.
On Thursday Rev George Whyte, clerk to the Church of Scotland’s Edinburgh presbytery, said: “Our congregations see a bleak future for themselves if this goes ahead.
“Churches will close and what they do will be lost.”
Conservative councillor Nick Cook described the new charges as a “misguided” exercise in profiteering, “treating motorists as a cash cow”.
He said: “I think they’re bad for churches, bad for business and bad for Edinburgh.”
He pointed out that 80% of the public had opposed the plans, and said their introduction sets a dangerous precedent.
He explained: “The desire in the long term for both Labour and the SNP is to have the full day charges.”
Members of the public also seemed less-than-keen on the scheme.
Reacting to the news online Jenny Cheung said: “Looks like no family Sundays for us in Edinburgh city centre. Oh well – we will just spend our money elsewhere.”
Keith Gunn added: “Don’t buy the faux green agenda, just ban cars then.”
Announcing the move transport convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said the new charges would “reduce disruption”.
She said: “Not only will this make parking easier for residents and visitors by increasing parking turnover, but we hope in turn it will encourage more people to choose public transport or active travel over the car by creating safer, more free-flowing roads.”