CALLS for free parking throughout the city have been rejected, despite a vicar dubbing Sunday parking charges a “church tax”.

The proposals were discussed at the Brighton and Hove City Council Policy and Resources Committee yesterday.

A petition signed by 1,282 people to introduce free Sunday car parking and on street parking across Brighton and Hove was presented to the council in March.

Last week the Rev Martin Poole, vicar of St Luke’s church, Prestonville, joined the debate when he sent a letter to churches and congregations of all denominations encouraging people to lobby councillors on the committee to vote for the change.

The Rev Poole said: “At the moment it costs my congregation two or three pounds to come to church before they’ve even walked in the door. It effectively is a church tax.

“It’s astonishing to me that I can park outside my son’s flat in Camden at the weekend for free, but people can’t park in my area of Brighton for free at any time.”

The committee had been asked to consider three options – offering free parking both on and off street on Sundays, partial free parking on Sundays and referring alternative suggestions for parking charges to an end of year annual review, which the committee voted to do.

A council report estimated the cost of providing free Sunday parking at £2.6 million each year and an additional £1,035 million to implement.

Coun Jason Kitcat, chairman of the committee, said: “Offering free parking on a Sunday is likely to create more congestion and actually make it harder for those driving to find a parking space.

“That would have a negative impact on our economy.”

Suggestions that could be taken forward as part of the annual review could include promotional rates at Norton Road, London Road and Oxford Court car parks where demand is low on a Sunday.

Jeremy Gale, Liberal Democrat council candidate for Central Hove ward, who led the petition, said: “What the voting showed today is that both Labour and the Greens are clearly against introducing free Sunday parking and that Liberal Democrats are the only party in the city committed to scrapping parking charges on a Sunday.”