Free car parking initiative in Banbridge at Christmas?

Fundraisers at Bow Street
Fundraisers at Bow Street

A free one day car parking initiative which took place in Banbridge town in the run up to Christmas last year is expected to be expanded to four Saturdays this year.

A decision on whether the council are to go ahead with the same scheme this year was due to take place at the Banbridge District Council’s monthly meeting last night (Monday).

The cost of the project is expected to set the council back around £5,500 - £1000 of which would be used to advertise the scheme.

Last year in run up to Christmas Banbridge District Council first introduced a one day (Saturday) pilot project for free car parking in all DRD owned car parks in the town.

An evaluation was later carried out with mixed results. Shoppers stayed longer to shop, it was found, however, the lack of turnover of spaces meant it was difficult to find a parking space and made more difficult by all day staff parking; traders reported limited impact on trade, however, felt that customers welcomed thr free parking and the atmosphere in the down was described as being ‘very good.’

A Roads Service intitiative this year to reduce parking charges in small towns across Northern Ireland means that visitors can park in Banbridge for five hours for £1.

However, a number of traders felt that free car would be helpful in the run up to Christmas and requested that the Council fund a further free car parking initiative for 2014 extending the pilot project from November 29 until December 20.

A Department for Regional Development spokesperson said: “The Department has not received any formal feedback from Banbridge Council regarding the impact of the ‘free Saturday’ in the town’s car parks last year, nor has it received a request for a similar scheme this year.

“Since April this year the Department has had in place a ‘five hour parking period for £1’ scheme in Banbridge and other towns across Northern Ireland.”

Councillor Daivd Herron said that should the council go ahead with the scheme this year it would give the town a welcome boost.

“If we dont go ahead with this..it is hoped that we do then traders will just shop elsewhere this Christmas and that is the fear,” he said.