THERE have been calls for car parking charges to be lifted during the current lockdown to help support key workers.
Derry City and Strabane District Council has responsibility for four ‘pay and display’ off-street car parks in the town, namely Upper and Lower Main Street, John Wesley Street and Butcher Street.
The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) have responsibility for on-street car parking.
Ulster Unionist Alderman, Derek Hussey, made the suggestion at last Wednesday's meeting of council's Environment and Regeneration Committee.
"It is my understanding that during the first lockdown car parking fees were lifted on the council car parks," he said.
“If that was true would it be something council should consider now in the second lockdown and I'm particularly mindful that the majority of the traffic should be workers who have no other option than to be at their work.
“They are key workers and in some way we should be giving encouragement to them with regards to the essential work they are doing in our community.”
Responding to the comments, Karen Phillips, director of Environment and Regeneration, said car parking is managed by the council's Business and Culture section, adding that she would contact the director on the issue.
“I do believe that there was some flexibility around car parking charges during the first lockdown," Ms Phillips said.
“Clearly it would be something that members could consider at full council if they wanted to.
“Obviously, the team would need to bring forward the financial implications of that and that would all have to be balanced against the cost around enforcement etc.”
Meanwhile, West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA., Nicola Brogan, said she has also asked the Minister for Infrastructure, Nichola Mallon, to relax current restrictions around on-street car parking regulations to facilitate direct parking access to essential services especially for vulnerable people and the elderly.
“I, along with other party colleagues, have been contacted by constituents who have received parking fines while trying to access essential services such as the chemist and Post Office," she said.
“Some of those in receipt of such parking fines are vulnerable and elderly with acute mobility problems necessitating parking as close as possible to these essential services.
“They mistakenly believed that the easing of on-street restrictions that applied during the first lockdown had once again been reintroduced."
Ms Brogan said questions are also being asked "what the logic is for traffic wardens to be on duty when the current Health Protection Regulations means the town should be quieter."
“I have submitted a request to the DfI Minister on this issue and would urge her to return to the same position adopted during the first lockdown, in relaxing the restrictions for on-street parking," she added.