Is it time there was a chamber of commerce in Downpatrick?
The business community in these troubled times is losing out on representation in Down’s County Town over a number of key issues. One of these latest issues confronting the business sector across the North is the hike in car parking charges recently announced by Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazard.
The Chambers of Commerce in Newry, Belfast and Lisburn, the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) and Hospitality Ulster has issued a joint call to the Infrastructure Minister to reverse his decision to hike on-street car parking charges in Belfast, Newry and Lisburn.
Charges in Belfast City Centre will increase by 20p per hour to £1.40, while a number of streets on the edge of the city centre with a current charge of 80p per hour will increase to £1.20 per hour. Charges in Newry will increase from 40p to 60p per hour and in Lisburn, from 60p to 80p per hour.
In a joint stamens from the Belfast Chamber of Trade, Lisburn Chamber of Commerce, Newry Chamber of Commerce & Trade, NIIRTA and Hospitality Ulster, a spokesperson said: “Our organisations represent many thousands of businesses in the three cities. We are disappointed that the Minister made this decision without any consultation with our members.
“Rather than increasing Parking Charges, the Minister should be reducing them to encourage more people to come into city centres.
“We need a level playing field for shoppers who use their cars, public transport, or who walk or cycle to our town and city centres”
“The Minister or his successor should rethink these unfair and unnecessary hikes which are little more than a further burden on shoppers.
“The only winners from this hike are the big out of town superstores with their unfair competitive advantage of free car-parking and no over zealous traffic attendants.
“We are seeking an immediate meeting with the Minister and will engaging with our local Councils and MLA’s to lobby for this hike to be dropped.”
Other key issues facing the business community include the Brexit and hard border debate, business rates, and out of town shopping centre developments.
So, given the extent of concern across the County Down business sector and generally across Northern Ireland about the car park charges hike, is it time for interested business people in the Downpatrick area to step up to the plate and form an effective chamber to add to the growing body of representation?
Review of parking enforcement deployment underway.
A review of parking enforcement deployment is being undertaken across the North.
The review will consider effectiveness of deployment and the number of Penalty Charge Notices (PCN’s) / Warning Notices issued and the number of Vehicle Drive Aways (VDAs) recorded.
Commenting on the review, Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said: “My priority as Minister is to ensure the free flow of traffic in towns and cities across the north. In order to maximise effectiveness and efficiency, Traffic Attendants are deployed to those places where they will have the most impact upon road safety and traffic progression.
“Any town that was routinely enforced and generated less than 10 PCNs/VDAs on average per month, will be removed from the schedule for routine traffic attendant deployment.
“The review has been completed in Transport NI’s Southern Division and a number of towns have been removed from scheduled enforcement. The same criteria will now be applied in the Northern, Western and Eastern Divisions. The Department will continue to visit all towns, including those removed from regular deployment, when need arises or when requested and resources are available.”