A Belfast business serving people forced to isolate during the Covid-19 crisis has hit out after one of its vehicles was given a parking ticket.
Leading delicatessen Sawers criticised the tough parking enforcement in Belfast, even while the city remains in lockdown.
Outraged shop owner Kieran Sloan took to Twitter to post pictures of the penalty notice that was slapped on his son’s car outside the city centre deli as it was being loaded with deliveries for locked-down customers.
A furious Kieran told the Belfast Telegraph that the penalty was “ridiculous”.
He explained: “My son was loading his car up at 3pm with grocery deliveries for people in Glengormley and the Antrim Road.
“He told the traffic warden: ‘I’ll just be two wee seconds, I’m just getting the last box here’.
“But when he came out of the shop he’d had a ticket slapped on him.”
Kieran also posted a picture of the street outside the shop — deserted except for his son’s car.
“We’re a family-run business, not a big corporate organisation. All the places that are being targeted are small family-run businesses just trying to survive.”
Customers were delighted that Sawers was doing deliveries during lockdown, Mr Sloan said.
He added: “All we’re trying to do is stay open, keep people in work.
“Why is all this money being wasted here on these guys?
“It’s like a ghost town, and these guys are trying their best to ticket people. It’s unreal.
“We’re delivering to people who are stuck in the house, cannot get out.
“It’s not as if we’re making any money on this — it’s just to keep us afloat, keep the doors open, pay the electricity and the rent.
“We’re just trying to keep the lights on.”
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said he was puzzled by the level of enforcement.
“Our high streets are virtual ghost towns — and you really have to question why we have the ‘redcoats’ out, because there’s no foot-fall, there is nobody out, so why are the ‘redcoats there?
“I think that this issue is something that the Department for Infrastructure needs to re-examine.”
Mr Roberts urged Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon to consider the matter.
Ms Mallon told the Belfast Telegraph she would be ‘scaling back’ the level of parking enforcement during what she called “these difficult trading conditions”.
“During the first lockdown it was evident that some drivers took advantage of the absence of Traffic Attendants, as there were instances of hazardous and irresponsible parking, some of which compromised road safety and impacted on traffic progression,” the SDLP Minister said.
“I am, however, well aware of the difficult trading conditions being encountered by businesses along with the reduced traffic volumes using our roads, so I have taken the decision to scale back the parking enforcement service during this difficult time.
“Parking restrictions will remain in place and a small team of Traffic Attendants will continue to be deployed on a priority basis to locations where they can contribute most to road safety and traffic progression.”
It is understood the Department for Infrastructure will now be engaging with its parking services provider NSL on the appropriate level of provision during the Covid lockdown.