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Parking fine blitz will drive shoppers out of town - warning

Thursday, 6 April 2017

AN increase in the number of parking tickets issued in Strabane has prompted a warning from the chief of Retail NI that shoppers could be 'driven out of town centres'.

The organisation's Glyn Roberts - a regular visitor to the town - was reacting to the Department for Infrastructure's (DfI) publication of Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) for 2015 and 2016.

The report presents data on the number of parking tickets issued in towns and villages across Northern Ireland to vehicles found to be parked in contravention of parking restrictions.

In Strabane district, which encompasses Castlederg, Newtownstewart and Strabane town, a total of 1,894 tickets were issued to motorists who parked illegally on roads and car parks throughout the district last year. In 2015, the figure was significantly lower at 1,278.

The figures can be further broken down into on-street and off-street categories. Of the total 1,894 fines dished out last year, 1,009 were handed out by traffic wardens to motorists who flouted on-street parking regulations with the majority of these in Strabane town.

This represents a significant increase on the number for 2015 when 'red coats' issued 639 tickets across the three towns.

Glyn Roberts says the issue of parking fines is an ongoing problem for his members who, he claims, have suffered at the hands of over-zealous enforcement for some time now.

"The new statistics show there's been an eleven percent increase across the board and that's worrying. The real concern we have is it will put off shoppers from coming in to town centres and the only winners will be the out of town super stores who have free parking, no bus lanes and no red coats," he said.

He added that a proper car park policy is needed and that instead of automatic fines there should be a grace period when a parking motorist's time runs out.

Mr Roberts said he was shocked by the increase in the figures for the Strabane area over the two years adding this would not help footfall in the town.

The report also contains statistics for the number of PCNs issued to offenders in council-owned car parks (off-street) which transferred to local authority control following the reorganisation of local government on April 1 2015. In the Derry City and Strabane District Council area, 2,989 fines were issued in 2015 for violation of off-street parking restrictions; 639 in Strabane. In 2016, there were 3,485 parking tickets issued in council-owned car parks; 885 in the town.

"The last thing we need is the over zealous 'redcoat' activities affecting shoppers that come in. Nobody disagrees with the need to have fair and proportioned enforcement of car parking but the problem at the minute is many people think it's not fair and that suggests there's something wrong and needs to be tackled," Mr Roberts continued.

 

He said all on and off-street parking should be the responsibility of the local councils so changes such as policy direction could be made at a local level.

He added the political and economic situation was uncertain at present and with Brexit around the corner, retailers don't need any more distractions to contend with.

"I hope the politicians in the district will take note of these increases in parking tickets and they put pressure on the incoming Minister for Infrastructure to deal with this," he said.

Meanwhile, the DfI said parking enforcement is needed to help reduce the number of vehicles illegally parked on roads.

"This in turn reduces traffic congestion and helps traffic to flow more freely, assists delivery vehicles, helps buses to keep to their timetable and improves bus journey times, improves road safety and provides accessibility for all road users, including Blue Badge holders.

"The enforcement of on-street limited waiting and pay and display spaces, park and ride charged car parks and council operated car parks also encourages a turnover of parking spaces, giving shoppers and visitors more opportunities to find suitable parking," a spokesperson said.

 

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