MOTORISTS in Banbridge have described the news that parking in any of the three currently free car parks in the town may soon cost them up to 40p an hour as “a disgrace”.
Locals said the proposals, revealed by DRD Minister Danny Kennedy last week, will simply drive people out of the town to nearby retail parks which provide free parking.
Under the proposals a charge of 40 pence per hour would be introduced from early June in the Downshire Place North, Townsend Street and Bridge Street East car parks in Banbridge.
The Minister also confirmed an increase to penalty charge notices, (PCNs), from £60 to £90, from early June. Anyone who parks illegally risks receiving a penalty charge notice and will be liable for a fine of up to £90, but can have this reduced to £40 if they pay within a certain period.
Drivers and traders alike have slammed the proposals, saying they will simply add to the hurt the town centre is already suffering.
One local hairdressers said the proposals were ridiculous: “We supply a free car park but not everyone has this luxury and charging for parking is the last thing needed for our local economy!”
Other people said the introduction of these charges makes little sense at a time when businesses are struggling, and added that they feel drivers were being punished for remaining loyal to their town centre.
But the Minister strongly defended his proposals, saying he had made effort to ensure some free parking remained in the town.
“I have ensured that there is free off-street or on-street car parking in all towns across Northern Ireland, which includes 195 free car parking spaces in Kenlis Court, Church Square and Downshire Road,” he said.
“The off-street car parks may be a walk from the town centre but offer a free alternative to charged parking.
“Given the tough economic climate that town centre businesses are operating in, I have decided to hold the proposed year two review on car parking charges for two months. This is in addition to not proceeding with on-street parking charges.”