'Scrooge' Northern Ireland council rapped over Sunday parking fees in run-up to Christmas
A council has been accused of acting like "Scrooge" after it introduced car parking charges on Sundays in the lead-up to Christmas.
Residents lashed out at Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council after dozens of motorists picked up parking tickets in Coleraine when the new charges were introduced on the first Sunday of this month.
The fees were brought in on The Mall and Abbey Street car parks in the town centre, creating a social media storm.
DUP councillor William McCandless told the Belfast Telegraph he contacted the chief executive and director of environmental services at the council last month after hearing rumours of Sunday parking charges.
"I strongly advised them not to introduce it, that it would not be popular," he said.
"I felt that it was the wrong message to be sending out coming up to Christmas. When other council areas were doing inducements of £1 for five hours and others introducing free parking, that it would be detrimental for us to do this.
"They advised me they were just following the policy as of last year."
It is understood around 30 unsuspecting motorists were issued with tickets, including people coming from church.
Mr McCandless, who is a warden of nearby St Patrick's Church, said he had advised members of the congregation that parking charges were coming in and not to get caught out.
However, it is believed that some parishioners from nearby New Row Presbyterian Church returned to their cars only to be greeted with £45 penalty notices on their windscreens.
The councillor added: "We don't charge for any other Sunday of the year and I think this shows a Scrooge-like mentality, to be charging in the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Personally, I think this was a bad move. It did not have the sanction of councillors and it is regrettable that it was not brought before council to get approval for this."
Causeway Coast and Glens Council said the borough-wide car parking strategy was under review and that free car parking in the town was trialled in the run-up to Christmas 2015, but led to increased congestion.
It added: "The council continues to offer free parking in Railway Road, Railway Place, Long Commons and Waterside on a Sunday."
The Coleraine Chronicle reported that the matter was to be debated at a meeting of the council's leisure and development committee last night.
However, Mr McCandless told the Belfast Telegraph yesterday afternoon he had not been notified of any amendments to the meeting's agenda and that parking did not come under the committee's remit.
Coleraine residents took to social media to criticise the council's decision, with many labelling it "short-sighted".