Belfast Telegraph

Why these charges need to be parked ...

By Gail Walker

Shopping centres may be packed with big names and the rain doesn't fall on you, but I still love a run down the town at weekends.

"Run" being the key word if I'm to carry out my circuit within the ruthlessly enforced one-hour parking limit.

Still, it's worth getting to the Windsor Bakery; on to Dowey's award-winning butchers; then Houston's department store ... and, er, that's it. Traffic warden alert. Market streets are special.

Despite the march of big names, most still have their fair share of local traders.

In Lurgan, there's Menary's, which lets me bring out clothes for older relatives to choose from. Or the lady in the sewing shop which, when a certain gentleman sank the scissors into the sleeve of a new suit while cutting off the labels, merely tutted, said "give me an hour", and returned it as good as new.

It's about people knowing their customers. The personal touch which big stores don't have because of the scale of their operations.

But small town traders face an uphill battle to survive. Most say the one-hour parking limit has already damaged business. In Lurgan, too, the controversial £3m public realm works seem to have created pedestrianised areas where no one sits, at the expense of parking spaces.

And now there's the threat of on-street parking charges. Yes, there are car parks, but many - the elderly, mums - don't want to or simply cannot hike from one of those for a few messages.

Shopping's meant to be relaxing and social, not a race against time. You shouldn't have to spend cash just to nip to the greengrocer's. The powers-that-be need to realise that being a bunch of jobworths will cost other people their jobs.

Town centres are too important to towns and the people who live in them to have the life strangled out of them.

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