Outrage as Northern Ireland car parking charges soar by up to 50%
There has been outrage after car parking charges in Northern Ireland are set to increase by as much as 50%.
Charges in Belfast city centre will increase by 20p per hour from £1.20 to £1.40, while outside the city the current charge of 80p per hour will increase to £1.20 per hour.
Charges in Newry will increase from 40p to 60p per hour and in Lisburn, from 60p to 80p per hour.
Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said: “On-street parking tariffs in Belfast have not increased since 2011 and have therefore not kept pace with inflation. Similarly, tariffs in Newry and Lisburn have not increased since 2009 and 2008.
“On-street parking provides a vital resource for shoppers and visitors and is an important support for the economic and social life of our towns and cities and for that reason I have limited these increases to the minimum possible.”
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) expressed surprise and dismay at the Infrastructure Ministers’ decision to hike on-street car charges in Belfast, Newry and Lisburn without any consultation with traders’ groups.
Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “This decision to hike car parking charges in Belfast, Newry and Lisburn city centres without any consultation is completely unacceptable. We are strongly opposed to this and will be lobbying the new Infrastructure Minister after the Assembly election to reverse this disgraceful and unnecessary move.
“Rather than increasing parking charges, the Minister should be reducing them to encourage more people to come into the three city centres. The only winners from this hike are the big out of town superstores with their unfair competitive advantage of free car-parking and no over zealous traffic attendants.
“We will be fighting this hike and will be engaging with all political parties during the Assembly election to ensure Belfast, Lisburn and Newry City Centres get a fair deal on Car Parking."
Minister Hazzard also announced a review of parking enforcement which will see the dreaded 'red coats' pulled from towns which generate 10 penalty notices a month.
He said: “My priority as minister is to ensure the free flow of traffic in towns and cities across the north. In order to maximise effectiveness and efficiency, Traffic Attendants are deployed to those places where they will have the most impact upon road safety and traffic progression.
“The review has been completed in Transport NI’s Southern Division and a number of towns have been removed from scheduled enforcement.
"The same criteria will now be applied in the Northern, Western and Eastern Divisions. The department will continue to visit all towns, including those removed from regular deployment, when need arises or when requested and resources are available.”
Commenting on the recent deployment of traffic attendants in Coalisland, where Minister Hazzard concluded: “Following representations to my Department to commence scheduled parking enforcement in Coalisland, a trial was established to ascertain if scheduled routine enforcement is necessary. During the trial which ran from August to December 2016, two warning notices were issued. This trial has now ended and on the basis of efficient and effective use of resources, Coalisland will not have routine scheduled enforcement.”