Public told to use buses but Stormont transport staff have 233 free Belfast parking spaces
Despite encouraging public to get on the bus, civil servants are handed free parking space
The government department responsible for encouraging people to ditch their cars in favour of public transport as well as the controversial and hated bus lanes, has hundreds of free car parking places in Belfast for its staff, it has been revealed.
The BBC Stephen Nolan radio show revealed that the Department of Regional Development - now part of the Department of Infrastructure - has 233 free city centre car parking spaces for its own workers.
The department has defended the need for the spaces, saying the workers need their own transport in order to carry out their duties.
It told the BBC car parking facilities are allocated to post holders who have a "clear demonstrable and ongoing need to use a private vehicle for business purposes and and where the use of public transport is impracticable".
It also said workers were not given spaces permanently and often they were made available on a shared basis and it encouraged workers to use sustainable transport - such as walking, cycling or the bus.
A Department for Infrastructure spokesman added: “Car parking facilities are allocated to post holders who have a clear, demonstrable and ongoing need to use a private vehicle for business purposes and where the use of public transport is impracticable.
“Parking facilities are not granted on a permanent basis to individuals. The head of each business area assesses business needs and allocates parking to post holders who meet the criteria. Parking spaces are often allocated on a shared basis between staff to meet varying business needs.
“The department promotes a number of initiatives to encourage everyone to consider using sustainable transport options such as walking, cycling, public transport or car sharing.
"To help meet the growing demand from staff in the department who do now car share or cycle to work, over 10% of the parking available in Clarence Court has been made available to them.”
Union NIPSA said workers would regularly need to use their cars in order to work on the thousands of miles of road the department has to manage.
Carmel Gates from the union said those with spaces would be "essential users".
"They need their car to do their job," she said.
"Often they will need to go at short notice and the car needs to be available to them.
"We have a very clear policy of encouraging our members to use public transport and our view that it is underfunded and needs investment."