Online campaign launched for free parking

WELL-known Banbridge campaigner, Drew Gregg, has launched a rally call on Facebook for two hours of free parking to be made available in the town centre carparks.

And an online display ‘ticket’ calling for the free car parking has attracted significant support since the weekend, with the item having been shared and reposted hundreds of times.

Some of the Facebook users have also used the opportunity to ask for Dromore and Rathfriland to be included in the online campaign, with one supporter calling for all carparks to be free.

Another supporter said it was “a joke” that Rathfriland had such “idiotic parking restrictions”, while another claimed “motorists pay enough as it is”.

The debate is likely to continue as the district’s motorists vote with their feet and stay away from the new pay-and-display car parks following the introduction of charges at the beginning of the month.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy introduced the 40 pence-per-hour charges at several of the town’s previously free carparks at the beginning of July.

In the first week of their introduction, the usually full car park at Bridge Street East carpark in Banbridge lay virtually abandoned, with the two others at Downshire Place North and Townsend Street also noticeably less busy.

And despite a recent meeting between Banbridge Chamber of Trade and Mr Kennedy, there has been no softening on the issue, with motorists, traders and shoppers all left paying the price.

It is estimated it could cost those who work in Banbridge more than £800 every year, prompting Councillor Sheila McQuaid to call for a free park-and-ride option for employees, thereby “leaving parking available for shoppers in Banbridge”.