Town says no to parking charges

PROPOSALS to charge people using on-street parking spaces in the town centre could make it even more difficult for local traders who are already stuggling to cope in a tough economic climate.

That’s the message coming from Banbridge Chamber of Trade and Commerce in response to the Department of Regional Development’s plans to raise millions through parking charges.

Banbridge is one of 30 towns named in the department’s plans to have the new payment system introduced - although shoppers in nearby Newry have already been subject to parking charges for some times now.

While it is estimated Minister Conor Murphy’s suggestion could raise £37.5 million over the next four years, Chamber member Roisin McAleenan said it makes it difficult for local traders to compete with shopping centres which may have free parking onsite.

“It means we don’t have a level playing field,” she told the Leader. “We would be keen to get into talks with the department about this.”

Some of the district’s residents have spoken out against the proposals, saying Banbridge could become a ghost town.

“Shops are finding it hard enough to get by this will only add to their problems,” said Nicola Alexander.

Garth Wills said, “The town will become a ghost town if these proposals go ahead, I really don’t see any need for it to happen.”

While the plans have been hailed by the Minister as a way to keep traffic flowing through towns, a spokesman for the Chamber said Banbridge does not need such a measure.

“I think our current system is working,” he said. “We already have paid parking in our car parks. We would be pushing to keep the first hour free on the main street for as long as possible.”

“We want to make sure customers don’t suffer again with another stealth tax. We would be looking at trying to keep the current system.”

Parking fines are also mentioned in the department’s plans - with a proposal to increase £60 fines to £90.