A long-awaited announcement on the introduction of controversial parking charges in 30 towns and cities will not be made until after the summer, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Minister for Regional Development, Danny Kennedy, had previously hinted that he may scrap the contentious revenue-raising scheme this month, however, it has now emerged that he is still taking views from traders.
“I am continuing to listen to the views of traders and public representatives and hope to announce my decision on the introduction of on-street car parking charges in due course,” he said.
Retailers, who have backed the Belfast Telegraph’s ‘Park the Charges’ campaign, said they are not surprised by the delay, but have urged the minister to come to a decision “sooner rather than later”.
“Hopefully the decision made in September is the right one and that is to scrap the parking scheme,” said Glyn Roberts from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA).
The DRD hopes to raise £37m over four years by charging motorists in urban centres such as Ballymena, Coleraine and Enniskillen, for parking for the first time.
Meanwhile, a new study from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found that almost half of members (49%) believe charges would have a “detrimental impact” on their livelihoods.
Wilfred Mitchell, policy chariman of the FSB, said: “We need to be encouraging shoppers back into our town centres. Parking charges will only force them to choose out-of-town developments.”
Before the Assembly election, Mr Kennedy had said it would be “entirely sensible” to prevent the proposals.
He has already met NIIRTA and has received petitions containing more than 16,000 signatures from traders in Cookstown and Comber opposed to the plan.