'God won't get you off your fine' - church parking row erupts into Facebook debate over driving into Sunderland city centre

Father Marc Lyden-Smith
Father Marc Lyden-Smith
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An 'unholy row' between a priest and the council over parking tickets outside his church has sparked a wider debate about driving into the city centre.

Father Marc Lyden-Smith, of St Mary’s RC Church, questioned whether his flock were being targeted by parking attendants during mass because they're 'easy prey' and said rules often confuse churchgoers especially the old and infirm.

He also said the council 'lacked imagination and vision' when it came to parking when it came to the system, rules, and how the money raised was spent.

His words sparked a mixed response on our Facebook page, with some unsympathetic to the fines, and others joining Father Marc in hitting out at Sunderland City Council's policies.

Jamie Appleton said: "I think we all agree that if you park illegally, you will get a ticket. However looking at the bigger picture the reverend is right. This money is NOT being re-invested, and that is the issue, we as a city, need to address."

He added: "No money is being put into anything to attract tourists, nothing put into making the city an attractive place to visit for any reason whatsoever."

Related: Unholy row as Sunderland priest accuses traffic wardens of targeting churchgoers

Jos Booker said: "Sunderland is becoming a no go area for drivers. Go to the Metrocentre for shopping it's free and there no charity or betting shops. I agree with the priest that Sunday parking should be free. Ok for councillors, they have their own car park so don't care."

A number of comments defended parking attendants, however, and bemoaned problem parking in the city.

Some also said religious groups should not expect special treatment.

Joe Laverick said: "Park correctly church people, same as every one else."

Bill Middlemas said: "There is no exemption in parking rules for religious purposes. Park where you are allowed and then you won't get a fine. That is the simple solution to this."

Deborah Rose said: "Parking rules apply to everyone, I'm afraid. Him up there won't help get them off their fines.

"Loads go to that place of worship on a Saturday and loads of them get parking tickets because they can't read the signs around the stadium.

"Park in the wrong place accept the fine or just don't park there. Simple as."

Related: Sunderland priest’s disgust after burglars urinate in church’s holy water

Colin Macdonald said: "Can we expect to see the manager of McDonalds complaining on behalf of his customers next?"

Simon Blakeston said: "If they're parking on each side of the road where buses go through, then they deserve a ticket. "

David Stephenson said: "He’s not targeting church goers! He’s targeting people who don’t park their cars correctly."

Father Marc commented himself to reinforce his wider message about parking.

He said: "Churchgoers aside - parking in the city centre should be free on Sundays and evenings. The council should be bringing people into the city. Motorists shouldn’t be met with a variety of parking charges and regulations. And with regards to church goers - all I’m saying is have a bit of patience with older people getting back to their cars 🚗 "

Ian Colquhoun agreed. He said: "Sunderland should also run an 'alive after five' or something similar each day, it makes good sense - even if it only gets a few more customers into the restaurants."