Walker Raises Parking Meter Issue In Council

“We have already heard this evening that the Minister  is increasing the parking fees in car parks to 40p per hour in Downpatrick and Newcastle and has actually reduced it in Ballynahinch to 30p for three hours instead of one hour. This will have serious outcomes for local businesses in the current economic climate. It will make life more difficult for local traders and drive customers out of small towns. The effect will just be detrimental.” [caption id="attachment_1613" align="alignleft" width="220" caption="Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy coming in for serious flak over parking charges and the instalation of parking meters. "][/caption] The motion was passed by a majority with Sinn Féin abstaining. Newcastle area SDLP Councilor Carmel O’Boyle has spoken out at the recent full meeting of Down District Council last night (28th March) in condemnation of the proposed introduction of On-Street Parking Charges saying installing parking meters in local towns was “deplorable, and we must reject it”. Councilor O’Boyle who was seconding a notice of motion brought by Councilor Billy Walker in relation to parking charges in Ballynahinch and Newcastle said, “I wish to fully support this motion. I make this statement not only in support of local residents and shoppers, but also in support and recognition of our traders. Business at the moment is extremely tough for all local traders, and this Parthian shot from a Sinn Fein Minister, has delivered a severe body blow to the people of Newcastle.” However, Sinn Féin Party Council Leader said, “We still have not see the consultation documents and don’t know exactly what the Minister’s proposal is. For that reason we would rather wait to see what is happening. And SDLP Copuncillor Peter Fitzpatrick said, People wil go crazy. This will have a bad knock on effect to our towns. The Council needs to oppose this.” SDLP Councilor Dermot Curran added, “Drivers will not like this and it will add to the congestion.” Sinn Féin Councillor Stephen Burns, said, “How can we deplore this when we don’t know exactly what it is about. It is just a pre-election ruse by those opposed to Sinn Féin. SDLP Councilor Eamonn O’Neill said, “We need to register our protest as soon as and as often as possible. We have a duty to stand up and represent people in our district.” Boyle Seconds the Motion Supporting Walker “Our business people are facing ever-increasing bills and in many cases a downturn of over 40% in the footfall across their doors. These traders are the backbone of our local communities providing employment and excellent service, so for the outgoing Minister of Regional Development to propose the introduction of parking charges in Newcastle and Ballynahinch without any consultation, is deplorable. “None of the revenue raised by these charges will make its way back into out towns that are already struggling. Small businesses like those in Newcastle need our support and I know that the Chambers of Commerce in every town affected by this disgraceful proposal, are asking for the support of elected representatives to reject it. The introduction of parking charges would certainly jeopardise the sustainability of our local businesses and will push shoppers and visitors out of our towns. “People will be discouraged from browsing the shops and walking the promenade. Will the large out of town supermarkets, which will be the beneficiaries of this plan, also be expected to charge customers to park at their stores.  If nothing is done to address this unfairness, the playing field will be uneven and our local traders will be disadvantaged.” Councillor Boyle said, “The Department must look at the bigger picture because clearly neither the officials nor their Minister have a clue about the hostile environment in which business people are now trying to make a living in and keep people in employment. Surely the taxes and rates that our business people already pay are enough, and far outweigh the revenue that the Department would generate as a result of these charges. “We have already been assured by local Sinn Fein politicians that water metering will not happen in Newcastle, in spite of the fact that this equipment is being installed across our town. Yet here we have an announcement that parking meters are to be installed. Did their Minister run this decision by them before he made this announcement?” Earlier Discussion On Parking Fees There was considerable agitation in the Down Council chamber at the full meeting, the last before the election on May 5th, when a letter was read by Chairman Councilor Eamonn O’Neill from the DRD explaining there would be an increase in off street parking fees in the district. The 30p per hour fee will rise to 40p. Quick on the attack, Councillor Peter Craig expressed his anger over inequity of Downpatrick parking fees rising, and the Ballynahinch fees dropping in value. Councilor Dermot Curran thought people would avoid coming into provincial towns to shop. Councilor Coogan explained that he and others had lobbied to get the rates down in Ballynahinch and other towns should be doing the same, adding Downpatrick can also present its own case. Councillor Billy Walker said the new DRD Minister will have to be lobbied on this issue. Councillor Liam Johnston said that businesses in local towns need footfall, and that on this issue he would support a letter to the DRD Minister welcoming the Ballynahinch reduction and opposing the Downpatrick price increase. This issue will be much discussed over the next few weeks as tempers flair as Stormont politicians become less accessible and concentrate on their own canvassing in the election. ]]>