Belfast Telegraph

Minister resists parking fines revolt as Northern Ireland traders pile on pressure

By Claire McNeilly

Traders have accused the Roads Minister Danny Kennedy of selling the Northern Ireland economy short because of his tough approach to car parking tickets.

The claim comes as the minister called for “common sense” and “realism” over parking restrictions and enforcement on May Day.

He also defended his decision not to introduce an amnesty for up to 115 motorists who were issued with £60 parking fines on May 1.

Following the bank holiday, a furore erupted among disgruntled drivers who complained that traffic attendants had been over-zealous.

Former mayor of Belfast Jim Rodgers called on Mr Kennedy to instruct NSL, the firm that employs traffic wardens, to scotch all the fines that were issued that day because hundreds of people were unaware that the so-called red coats were patrolling the streets on the public holiday.

Writing in Tuesday's Belfast Telegraph, Mr Kennedy defends how traffic attendants operate and he says demands for a retrospective amnesty are ill-informed.

“Parking restrictions apply all year round and drivers are expected to adhere to them at all times, whether traffic attendants are present or not,” the minister writes.

“Any suggested introduction of more flexibility by traffic attendants, or any form of retrospective amnesty for specific days is naive and would lead to questions over impartiality and whether one person was treated differently than another.

“Without these rules there would be a decrease in trade and increased congestion and driver frustration.

“Indeed, they are probably even more important on bank holidays when towns and cities work hard to attract more visitors.”

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA), said charges should be lifted during major events and on public holidays.

“We need an effective car parking strategy and we need to get this right if we are going to give the economy the support it needs.”

He added: “The time has come for the minister to have a re-think because the current system is not working and local traders are suffering.”

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The private company responsible for traffic enforcement in Northern Ireland is NSL, which has been paid £36m out of the public purse in the last six years. However, only £22.5m has been generated from parking tickets over the same period of time. Last year, the so-called red coats handed out 125,800 parking tickets across the province.

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