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Belfast residents driven to distraction by all-day parkers

Residents in a Belfast housing estate have vowed to continue a protest against motorists using their area as a free car park.

On weekdays the streets in and around Carrick Hill are blocked by so-called “commuter parkers” who abandon vehicles from 7am to 6pm.

Householders have complained that disabled residents and people with prams are forced onto the road by cars parked on footpaths. They also claim emergency vehicles and bin lorries have, on occasion, been unable to gain access to the narrow streets.

This week about 100 people staged a protest and handed out leaflets urging motorists to park their vehicles elsewhere.

Frank Dempsey, a housing and development worker in Carrick Hill, said the residents wanted to reclaim the area for themselves.

“This is an ongoing thing — people have just got to the stage that enough is enough. There are five car parks near here and two in the Carrick Hill area that are charging about £15 a week — that’s just over £2 a day,” he said.

“You see the same people coming in every morning. They start arriving at about 7am and stay all day. You see them park and away they go.

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“We are not against people coming here for a couple of hours to go into the town shopping or to go to a funeral Mass at St Patrick Church’s or something. It is these 8am-6pm parkers and their attitude. It’s as if we are here to look after their cars because if any of their vehicles are damaged then this community gets the flak for it.”

Since the protest on Tuesday the number of “commuter parkers” has dropped, but Mr Dempsey said some drivers were still showing a disregard for the locals.

“The typical attitude of the drivers is ‘if you pay our fees we’ll park in the town’,” he added.

“The audacity of some people is just unbelievable. These people are ignoring the residents.

“They say they pay road tax but we all pay road tax. How would they like it if we went up to their streets and blocked their driveways and footpaths so that children were forced to play on the road, and parked on their corners?

“We held a protest and there were the guts of 100 people, all residents, that took part. That tells you the depth of feeling in this community. It’s not as if we are going to sit back. We are launching a campaign to help keep this issue in the public domain.”

Parking has long been a bone of contention for residents in areas close to the city centre. People in the Markets regularly took to the streets before the Government launched an initiative in February to resolve the issue.

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