UK Council targets church-goers with a 700% parking fee increase
UK Council targets church-goers with a 700% parking fee increaseFollow @KnightsTempOrg
The council of a historic cathedral city has been accused of acting like the 'Soviet politburo' after it imposed a 710 per cent hike in Sunday parking charges to fund its efforts to go carbon neutral.
The move has enraged churchgoers who flock to renowned Winchester Cathedral on Sundays for services.
One said the hike had been so steep, their 'only hope is God' to solve the problem, while another church has publicly expressed its 'extreme disappointment' in the local authority.
Business owners are up in arms at the charges, fearing an impact on their ability to trade, while local residents have set up an online petition demanding a U-turn on the 'damaging' decision.
However, council decision-makers have dismissed calls to reverse the hike, quipping: 'Air quality doesn't care what day of the week it is.'
The new rates in the city centre were introduced in July, charging motorists the same on Sunday as any other day of the week as well as making them pay to park overnight for the first time.
Fees on a Sunday for more than four hours have increased in some car parks from £2.10 to £17 - an increase of 710 per cent.
The move was introduced by the council in a bid to reduce pollution by 'helping to deliver the carbon neutrality plan', which commits the local authority to delivering its services in an eco-friendly way by 2024.
But it has provoked wrath from cathedral-goers as one of the car parks affected is just a few hundred yards from the seat of the historic diocese.
Olive Bramley, who was born in Winchester and been attending services at the cathedral all her life, said she was 'incensed' at the council's decision.
'I go to the eight o'clock morning community service every Sunday,' the 74-year-old said.
Mrs Bramley, from nearby Micheldever, Hants, travels eight miles every weekend because her local church doesn't hold a Sunday service.
Arriving before the 8am start, Mrs Bramley pays the £3.30 flat overnight charge, as well as £1.80 as the new day rates begin as her mass starts.
'I'll have to pay £5.10 for parking and then £5 for the collection,' she continued.
'That's £10 a week, £40 a month - that's a lot of money in this day and age.'
Incredulous, she wrote to the council to check the new parking charges were correct. When she was told they were indeed correct, it was suggested she instead use a free car park a 15-minute walk away.
'That's quite a walk, not even necessarily for an old person, but for someone who finds walking hard,' she said.
'It's not about me, it's about everyone. There's no thinking going on, it's "let's just get as much money as possible".'
Mrs Bramley, who is a retired chef at Winchester College, has long been involved with the 'glorious and magnificent' building where she used to sing in the choir as a youngster.
'I think it's bad it's penalising people who want to go to church,' she continued.
'God is my only hope now, there's no joined up thinking, no common sense.
'I get cross when people go off and do crazy things with no thought because it ruins people's lives.
'There are old ladies who want to pray but I look at them and think are they going to be able to afford it?
'If you don't have £5, the council are taking away that pleasure.
'Times change and I understand that but we need to be thinking and not making hot-headed decisions.
'We should be looking after each other and that's the main thing.'
Affecting all central parking areas, 1,211 parking spaces are subject to the new tariffs.
However, published council documents claim there is still a 'significant' number of spaces at park and ride or park and walk locations.
The park and ride does not run on Sundays.
Nearby Hope Church is situated outside another affected car park, where the Sunday congregation and midweek volunteers leave their vehicles.
Church elder Steve Chick said: 'As a large and active church based in the middle of Winchester we are extremely disappointed at Winchester City Council's decision to introduce evening car parking charges in the city centre without any meaningful consultation.
'Sadly in taking this decision little thought or consideration has been given to churches and voluntary agencies providing an important social care role, especially when Central Government funding of public services is under increasing pressure.'