TRAFFIC wardens in Banbridge handed out almost 1,300 tickets last year - leading to claims that local motorists are being seen as a ‘cash cow’.
The statistic comes as it was revealled in a Freedom of Information Act investigation by The Detail website that 366 were handed out in the Rathfriland Street area and Commercial Road car park each.
The total of 1,258 in Banbridge makes up the vast majority of the tickets handed out in the district. One-hundred-and-two were handed out in Dromore, with 34 being placed on cars illegally parked in Market Square; Forty-eight were placed on cars in Rathfriland with 30 of those in Church Square; and just seven cars fell foul of the parking regulations in Gilford. Five of those were in Main Street.
A DRD spokesman told the Detail, “The income from PCNs (parking tickets) does not cover the full cost of the department’s contract with NSL.
“The aim of effective parking enforcement is to reduce the number of illegally parked vehicles on our streets and in our car parks. If this is achieved then the income from PCNs is reduced and the deficit is increased.
“However, the consequential benefits of reduced congestion, improved access to town centres and improved road safety are seen as vital to local economies.”
But the matter has caused concern for Upper Bann MP David Simpson, who believes that the economic and retail life of Banbridge is being squeezed unduly by car parking charges and tickets.
And following the news that Regional Development minister Danny Kennedy plans to proceed with the introduction of additional charges at the Downshire Place car park, he said this move could hurt traders even more.
“The decision by the DRD Minister to grant free on street car parking for both Lisburn and Newry over the Christmas period placed an additional squeeze in the Banbridge economy as there was no consideration given to allowing a similar measure for off street parking in the town as a way of matching that,” he said.
“This placed Banbridge traders at a considerable disadvantage over that crucial trading period in the year.
“We then had the introduction of new additional charges for the Downshire Place car park in Banbridge Town Centre which the Minister has now confirmed he intends to proceed with. And then we have this announcement that there were over 1,200 parking tickets issued to motorists in 2011.
“One could easily conclude that Banbridge motorists are seen as something of a cash cow for the Department and that they are an easy way to raise money.
“But there is a real danger that consumers could be forced away from Banbridge by this combination of advantaging other retail centres and introducing and imposing additional charges and punitive charges onto Banbridge.
“I am concerned that Banbridge traders will be placed under an even greater strain by such measures as shoppers choose to go elsewhere. And I would appeal for more common sense to prevail.”
The total number for each street is as follows:
BANBRIDGE - Anderson Street, 8; Bridge Street, 55; Castlewellan Road, 7; Church Square, 9, Church Street 23; Commercial Road, 36; Commercial Road car park 366; Downshire Place, 17; Downshire Road, 2; Dromore Street, 2; Kenlis Street, 15; Kenlis Street car park, 198; Linenhall Street, 25; Newry Street, 74; Old Kenlis Street, 17; Railway Street, 1; Rathfriland Street, 366; Scarva Street, 26; Townsend Street, 2; Victoria Street, 9.
DROMORE: Banbridge Road, 3; Bridge Street, 3; Castle Street, 2; Gallows Street, 14; Laganview Terrace, 1; Lottery Place access road; 1; Lower Mount Street, 15; Market Square, 34; Meeting Street, 3; Princes Street, 26.
GILFORD: Castle Hill, 1; Castle View, 1; Mill Street, 5.
RATHFRILAND: Castle Street, 1; Church Square, 30; Downpatrick Street, 7; Main Street, 9; Newry Street, 1.