Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland shopping centre in U-turn over parking charges - and offers to reimburse those fined

By Jonathan Bell

A Northern Ireland shopping centre has made a u-turn over charging for short-term car parking and has offered to reimburse those that got fines in recent weeks.

The Abbeycentre began charging for parking on February 19 - and was faced with a backlash from customers and staff.

At certain car parks spaces had to be paid for on entry, while there were other locations that were free, which resulted in confusion and many getting fines. For those parking longer than four hours there was a £1.50 charge.

In a statement released on Facebook on Wednesday, the centre said, having listened to concerns, it would again be making changes and across the entire site parking would be free for four hours with those wanting to stay longer having to pay the £1.50 charge.

At the beginning of the February the centre announced it was introducing parking changes in order to free up spaces for shoppers.

It said more than a quarter of its spaces were taken up by "non-customers" causing frustration among those looking for spaces.

When the charges were first announced there was an outcry with staff saying - as their shifts were normally a minimum of four hours - they would be adversely affected by the charge with no where else to go.

Announcing the decision to change the charging system again, the Abbeycentre also said for anyone who had received a fine for parking less than four hours at the centre to get in touch on Facebook and they would get it "quashed".

Since posting the update, the centre's Facebook page was inundated with comments with people detailing how they were fined.

"These "non customer parkers" that you mention are the hardworking staff that work in the centre!!!! Not one bit of concern for them!!!," said Charlene Waters.

*** STATEMENT FROM NEWRIVER RE CAR PARKING AT ABBEY CENTRE *** "NewRiver, in conjunction with Smart Parking Ltd. have...

Posted by Abbeycentre on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

*** STATEMENT FROM NEWRIVER RE CAR PARKING AT ABBEY CENTRE *** "NewRiver, in conjunction with Smart Parking Ltd. have...

Posted by Abbeycentre on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

*** STATEMENT FROM NEWRIVER RE CAR PARKING AT ABBEY CENTRE *** "NewRiver, in conjunction with Smart Parking Ltd. have...

Posted by Abbeycentre on Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In a statement, the Abbeycentre said: "NewRiver, in conjunction with Smart Parking Ltd. have listened to our Abbey Centre shoppers and taken your concerns on board. As a result we have decided to restore 'up to 4 hours free parking, across the entire site'. You can therefore park within all car parks (A, B, C Level 1 and C Level 2 & 3) for free for up to four hours.

"If you wish to park and shop for a longer period of time, please park in the Long Stay Car Park C, Level 2 & 3 (the multi-story) and pay a tariff of £1.50 per day (ie. until midnight).

"We have also made the decision to reduce the No Return restriction from 90 minutes to 30 minutes.

"We apologise for any confusion caused thus far. We have experienced teething problems, settling on a solution that works for all."

The statement continued: "As owners of Abbey Centre, NewRiver is a long-term investor in Newtownabbey. Since buying the centre NewRiver has invested over £7 million into improving the centre, including upsizing our anchor stores – Next, Dunnes and Primark – to cater to the needs of our shoppers.

"We undertook a car park analysis and the results showed that that nearly a quarter of the centre’s parking spaces were being taken up by non-customers, and we were aware that this is a growing frustration for customers who wish to visit, but cannot regularly find appropriate convenient parking.

"As a result, we introduced the new ANPR parking system. We implemented this with the single purpose of driving the long term sustainability of the centre to ensure there is a thriving retail destination that caters for the needs of our shoppers and to create a shopping destination that is a pleasure for our customers.

"Again we apologise for any confusion caused. We value our loyal customers and we hope that this final solution is satisfactory. Thank-you.”

Click here for a guide on parking at the centre.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.

Popular