The 20 riskiest places to park in Belfast
Five parking tickets a day were issued in one single street in Belfast during one 12-month period, writes Claire McNeilly
Data obtained by the Belfast Telegraph shows the number of penalty charge notices (PCNs), as they are also known, issued in each road in the city.
The most recent figures show that 28,724 parking tickets were handed out in Northern Ireland's capital in 2012-13.
It emerged that the top three streets to get caught out on in Belfast were Lisburn Road (1,723), Chichester Street (1,076) and Stranmillis Road (873).
The Department for Regional Development (DRD) released information on each of the 189,771 tickets issued to motorists in Belfast between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2013 in response to a Freedom of Information request from comparison website Looking4Parking.com.
It revealed that Lisburn Road has been the most ticketed area of all over the last five years, with parking attendants giving out 1,723 tickets for parking violations between 2012-13.
In total, a staggering 11,049 PCNs have been issued to motorists on that one Belfast street alone since April 2008.
The next most ticketed streets in the city – for two consecutive years – are Chichester Street and Stranmillis Road, where drivers have amassed 2,423 and 2,127 parking tickets respectively since April 2011. And although the number of tickets being handed out in Northern Ireland as a whole has dropped over the last five years, the revenue generated by the DRD has nevertheless risen due to an increase in parking fines.
Each PCN issued costs vehicle owners £90 – or £45 if paid within two weeks. Prior to July 2012 the penalty was £60 (or £30 within 14 days).
A DRD spokeswoman said the parking fine hike had helped raise its revenue from £4,111,402.57 in 2008/09 to £4,271,523.80 in 2012/13.
Over the same period, the total number of parking tickets issued across Northern Ireland fell by 32,571 – from 144,034 to 111,463.
The spokeswoman added: "The fall in PCNs is welcomed by Roads Service as this means more people are parking legally."
According to the statistics, the number of parking tickets issued in Northern Ireland has declined every year since 2008/09, with just under 8,000 fewer PCNs issued in 2013/13 than the previous year.
There were almost 8,000 fewer penalties doled out in Belfast in 2013/13 than in Leicester (36,633), which has a similar population.
There are around 115 parking attendants – or 'red coats' as they are nicknamed due to the colour of their uniforms – patrolling the streets each day whose job it is to issue PCNs to vehicles which are illegally parked.
The DRD's Roads Service takes responsibility for the enforcement of most parking restrictions but on-the-ground enforcement is provided by private contractor NSL Services Group.
The PSNI deals with offences such as dangerous parking and parking causing an obstruction.
The revenue raised by parking tickets is used, along with the income from car parking and other charges, to supplement the overall financing of DRD's Roads Service by the UK Government.
Penalty notices given out across the UK (data supplied by Looking4Parking.com, the comparison website).
Cardiff – 59,217; Coventry – 31,229; Edinburgh – 185,098; Glasgow – 121,942; Hull – 22,849; Leeds – 106,362; Leicester – 36,633; Liverpool – 127,691; Newcastle – 63,373; Plymouth – 62,448; Sunderland – 12,157; Wakefield – 16,794
The 20 riskiest places to park in Belfast (year 2012/13)
1 Lisburn Road - 1,723 fines
2 Chichester Street 1,076
3 Stranmillis Road 873
4 College Square East 654
5 Adelaide Street 651
6 High Street 614
7 Falls Road 519
8 Queen Street 505
9 Crumlin Road 451
10 Great Victoria Street 449
11 North Street 423
12 Linenhall Street 403
13 Cavendish Square 388
14 Donegall Place 387
15 Grosvenor Road 380
16 Botanic Avenue 376
17 Donegall Street 358
18 Alfred Street 350
19 Florence Place 343
20 Castle Place 325
Figures provided by the DRD in response to a Freedom of Information request
Traders on city's most fashionable street feel picked on
It is widely regarded as Belfast's most fashionable street, with its boutiques and destination shops.
But the Lisburn Road has also been the city's most ticketed area for the past five years, with the issuing of 11,049 parking fines since April 2008.
Traders complained that shoppers were being driven away from the popular retail district by prolific traffic attendants, compounding the problems of an already vicious economic downtown. However, the Department for Regional Development (DRD) has consistently argued that the road must be monitored to ensure the free flow of traffic and the overall safety of all road users.
Peter Carrington, president of the Lisburn Road Business Association (LRBA), said its reputation as being the most ticketed street in Northern Ireland had been devastating for the 100 or so shops, boutiques, restaurants, cafes and businesses there.
"At one point 27% of all of the tickets for clearway infringement was on the Lisburn Road, which was just ridiculous for one single road in Northern Ireland," he said.
Infuriated by the level of penalty charge notices (PCNs) issued in the street, Mr Carrington took the matter to Stormont.
"It was a massive problem but we worked with the Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy and Roads Service and the clearway restrictions were lifted at the end of last year so that it is now a tidal clearway," he said.
"It means that, after 9.30am, parking is allowed on the outward bound side of the road and in the evening, when the traffic is heavier going out of town, people can park on the inward bound side of the road. The trial is in place for 18 months and it has already made a significant difference to the number of parking penalties that have been given out on the road.
"The changes only kicked in last November so it's very early days, but the initial feedback from retailers is that the scheme has worked very well and has been good for business."
Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association boss Glyn Roberts said the figures were "a major cause for concern".
"Lisburn Road is the jewel in the crown of the independent retail sector, drawing consumers from across Northern Ireland," he said.
"As an important economic driver for the city, everything must be done to avoid putting people off going there, particularly with regard to parking."
Those charges and what you need to know
How much is a parking fine?
The amount of a parking ticket (PCN) is £90. If you pay within 14 days, however, a 50% discount is applied and you pay £45. If a parking ticket is not paid within 28 days, a 'notice to owner' will be issued to the registered keeper of the vehicle.
What happens if a notice to owner is sent out?
When a notice to owner has been issued, the PCN must be paid within 28 days or a charge certificate will be issued. The effect of a charge certificate is to increase the amount from £90 to £135.
How do you pay a parking ticket (PCN)?
Information on how to pay is given on the reverse side of the parking ticket (PCN). Payments may be made by internet at pay your parking penalty charge notice (PCN) online, by telephone on 0845 260 6100 by credit/debit card (Visa/ Mastercard/ Switch), or by post to the Parking Enforcement Processing Unit by crossed cheque or postal order made payable to Roads Service.
What if you didn't receive a parking ticket but have received a notice to owner requesting a £90 payment?
You are not eligible for the discounted rate of £45 as it is only available for 14 days from the date of the parking ticket.
Who processes parking tickets?
All PCNs are processed by Roads Service staff at the Parking Enforcement Processing Unit. All correspondence about parking tickets should be sent to the Parking Enforcement Processing Unit.
What should you do if you dispute a PCN?
Once a parking ticket is issued, it can't be cancelled by a traffic attendant. If you feel it should be cancelled, you must write to the Parking Enforcement Processing Unit at the address given on the reverse side of the parking ticket.