Local drivers In Downpatrick confused over car park charges.
Down News can reveal there appears to be confusion around car parking fees in Downpatrick.
This afternoon (Wednesday), while I was on my travels as Down News editor, I drove into the car park at The Grove Shopping Centre off Lower Market Street. This is not a Council controlled car park!
While I was about to pay for my parking ticket, a lady motorist leaving the car park stopped three elderly ladies approaching the ticket kiosk and said: “The parking is free.” They were walking away relieved that it was free… until I explained that it wasn’t.
The ladies were amazed when the ticket kiosk accepted my 50p… and dished out a receipt for my car windscreen.
The normal rate for an hour at 50p still applies in The Grove car park.
I explained to the elderly ladies that this was a car park owned by Newry Mourne and Down District Council but leased to Car Park Services who duly charge for parking and they were thankful for the heads up.
The penalty recording system when in operation is computerised and your car details and times are sent directly to Car Park Services etc if you have breached the car park regulations set by Car Park Services which are displayed at the entrance in a sign towering above the entrance.
There is no escape!
The ladies were relieved but confused. “But we read it in the paper” one said. “I thought it was free.”
I double checked with the attendant and confirmed the facts to the elderly ladies.
And as I was leaving the scene a mum with two children arrived and also thought parking was free. I also explained to her she needed a ticket.
In fact, I observed there was a number of people coming into the car park walking off without generating paid parking tickets at the ticket kiosk and displaying them on their windscreen. I could have spent the day there drawing this to the notice of drivers.
I wondered how many of these car park users were going to get a penalty ticket. So, I phoned Car Park Services and asked for clarification on how many penalty tickets have you issued in this car park at The Grove in the past month.
A manager for Car Park Services explained: “The car park in Downpatrick has not been free at any stage during lockdown. During the Covid-19 pandemic Car Park Services Ltd followed government advice. And no enforcement was carried out at Market Street Car Park between April and the present this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In order to minimise risk to employees our parking enforcement team were placed on furlough at the end of March and then reinstated in July when parking enforcement was recommenced.
“Car Park Services has been operating on site since 2003.”
I also drew the issue to the attention of the attendant while I was in the car park and suggested an eye-level sign for drivers be put in place to correct this faulty public perception where drivers believe that the car park is FREE when in fact normal charges apply.
PARKING IS FREE AT THE MARKET STREET CAR PARK OFF IRISH STREET AND THE CHURCH STREET CAR PARK (until 17th August).
BUT YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR A TICKET AT THE GROVE CAR PARK IN LOWER MARKET STREET IN DOWNPATRICK.
Don’t get caught out!
Earlier this week Newry Mourne and Down released a press release relating to Council controlled car parks (see below). In Downpatrick there are four – The Grove at Lower Market Street, Irish Street, Church Street and on Scotch Street. The Grove car park is leased to Car Park Services Ltd, a private company.
In relation to signage at the car park, the CPS manager said: “Temporary signage has been placed in the car park to remind customers that it is a chargeable pay and display car park.
“The signs read as follows: ‘Please note that this car park is a chargeable pay and display site. You must purchase a ticket from the machine or use Parkmobile for use of this car park.‘
“Additionally the permanent entrance board states that the car park is Pay & Display and Private land, Managed by Car Park Services Ltd.”
So there you have it! Keep your 50p’s handy for the Handy Park!