Free parking boost for traders
Plans for free on-street parking in Belfast, Newry and Lisburn in the run-up to Christmas are a welcome boost for traders, business leaders have said.
The decision to suspend charging for street parking in the evenings and on Saturdays coincides with the start of late-night shopping.
Transport minister Danny Kennedy said it was the first time the move had been extended beyond Belfast and he said he hoped it would provide city centres with a boost ahead of the holiday season.
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said it warmly welcomed the announcement.
Chief executive Glyn Roberts said: "This is very welcome news for retailers and shoppers in all three of these city centres. Given that we need to encourage more people into our city centres to shop and support struggling retailers, this announcement is an early Christmas present for Belfast, Newry and Lisburn."
The charging freeze will begin on Monday and run until Christmas Eve. On-street parking charges will be suspended from 4.30pm, Monday to Friday and all day Saturday, in Newry and Lisburn city centres, plus the central zone of Belfast city centre.
The minister said: "This is the first time on-street paid parking enforcement has been suspended beyond Belfast city centre. I have also extended the scheme to include all day Saturday as well as after 4.30pm, from Monday to Friday. I hope this is a decision that will be welcomed by the three cities where drivers pay for on-street parking all year round.
"No other towns in Northern Ireland have on-street paid parking and I hope this will provide these city centres with a boost for the Christmas period."
Drivers were warned that pay-and-display machines located in the streets that are included in the scheme will still accept payment during non-enforcement times and no refunds will be given.
The scheme will cover all on-street pay and display bays in Lisburn and Newry and an area of Belfast city centre bounded by Chichester Street and Wellington Place to the north, Upper Queen Street and Brunswick Street to the west, Victoria Street, May Street and Alfred Street to the east and Ormeau Avenue to the south.