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Parking fee plan not set in stone, insists minister

Proposals for controversial on-street parking charges are not set in stone, the Roads Minister has told traders.

Speaking at a meeting with business leaders representing 30 towns and cities affected by the measures, Conor Murphy said there was wriggle room for traders opposed to the plans.

“We welcome that Minister Murphy assured us that a full consultation will be held on this issue and that the proposals are not set in stone,” said Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retailers Association.

Yesterday a delegation, with representatives from Ards, Bangor, Larne and Limavady, took their concerns to the minister.

The hour-long summit, in Clarence House, the Department for Regional Development’s Belfast headquarters, was described as “useful”.

Mr Roberts said: “We pointed out that chambers of commerce and traders groups in each of the 30 towns are completely opposed to these charges.

“These charges will result in more shoppers being forced to go to out-of-town stores which offer free car parking.

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“At a time when we should be encouraging more shoppers to our struggling town centres this is the wrong charge. I can see that the minister is coming from this with the best of intentions and we are aware that all the departments are under pressure in terms of financial constraints.

“We put forward the view that there is total opposition across all 30 towns and cities affected by this proposal. And he heard that message loud and clear.”

The Department for Regional Development has said it aims to introduce the parking levy next year in a bid to raise about £37m over a four-year period.

Yesterday’s meeting comes after the Belfast Telegraph launched a campaign — Park The Charges — backing the small independent retailers’ campaign to oppose the new parking charges.

Our campaign precedes a public consultation on the issue.

Mr Roberts said traders now want to know where each of the main political parties stand in relation to on-street parking fees.

“The current systems in the 30 towns where shoppers can park free for the first hour or two works in ensuring a turnover in traffic and preventing people from parking all day.

“To charge for this could be the final nail in the coffin for our town centres.”

An event opposing the charges will be held tonight in Denvirs Hotel in Downpatrick at 5.30pm.what we are calling for...The Belfast Telegraph is urging the next DRD Minister to scrap plans to introduce on-street car parking charges in towns across Northern Ireland. Traders across the province have already expressed through this paper serious concerns about the impact that this plan could have on the character of our town centres. At a time of economic difficulties, the Stormont Executive should be supporting our local retailers and recognising the vital role they play in the economy.