Belfast City Council to bring in free car parking in time for Christmas
People doing their Christmas shopping in Belfast city centre are in line for an early treat this festive season - free car parking.
Last December, Belfast City Council made two car parks free of charge each Saturday.
This year, the council is set to go even further as it now owns 30 off-street car parks previously operated by the Department for Regional Development.
DUP councillor Christopher Stalford had proposed a small £1 flat rate for car parks in a bid to attract more people into the city centre - but the council may go beyond that.
The Strategic Policy and Resources Committee is set to discuss this Friday whether council-owned car parks should be free on Saturdays and week nights.
Of the 30 off-street car parks that the council now controls, 17 currently charge for use - covering a total of 1,481 spaces.
There are currently two proposals on the table for discussion.
The first would see free parking all day Saturday and after 6pm on Thursdays from November 28 to January 2.
The second would see free parking all day Saturday and also after 6pm from Monday to Friday for the same period.
If approved, signs will be erected to alert the public to the location of the car parks.
The committee must approve one of the options, and then that decision must be ratified by the next meeting of the full council on December 1.
Mr Stalford told the Belfast Telegraph he was delighted that his parking proposal could now be extended.
"With these car parks having transferred to us under the Review of Public Administration, we are in a position to influence the level of charging," he said.
"I think it would be a very good thing for the city to be able to reduce the cost of car parking as a means of encouraging more people into the city centre over the Christmas period.
"Other towns around Belfast have done this and it has been a boon for their economy so it is something we should do.
"It is not only for our citizens, but also to draw people in from outside the city to spend some money and help boost the city centre.
"Christmas is an especially important time of the year for the traders in Belfast.
"After our people, the city centre is our most valuable resource. The rates raised there help to pay for essential public services, which are enjoyed by all the citizens of Belfast throughout the year.
"It is in the ultimate interests of all Belfast people that the city centre is doing well, and anything which inhibits the amount of trade taking place in Belfast be removed."