Belfast residents stop commuters from parking
Community holds protest over drivers who leave cars outside their homes
A day of protest is being planned across Belfast by angry residents who claim commuters are invading their streets and endangering lives with bad parking.
Concern over city centre workers using residential areas for their cars came to a head in the Markets area yesterday when protesters stopped drivers from entering a number of streets.
People living in the neighbourhood, in the south of the city, claim commuters are flouting parking restrictions and leaving their cars on residential footpaths, grass verges and yellow lines.
A local community group, the Markets Development Association (MDA), is now talking to people in other areas affected by the problem, with the aim of co-ordinating a day of action.
Other communities hit by parking problems include Donegall Pass, Sandy Row, Brown Square and Barrack Street.
Sinn Fein councillor Deirdre Hargey, who lives in the Markets area, said there needed to be a citywide solution.
She claimed that bad parking meant bins had not been collected at a nursery school for two weeks and added there was also a risk that emergency services would be unable to access certain streets if needed.
The councillor further claimed that residents had been told by parking enforcement officers that they had been ordered to stop issuing tickets to cars parked illegally around the Stewart Street entrance to the neighbourhood. A Department for Regional Development spokeswoman confirmed enforcement had been "temporarily suspended".
The spokeswoman said: "The waiting restrictions on Stewart Street are currently being reviewed and regularised and, as a result, enforcement has been temporarily suspended.
"DRD Transport NI officials held a number of meetings earlier this year with the MDA and councillor Catherine Curran to discuss residents' parking in the area. It was acknowledged at those meetings that the local community had been unable, on two occasions, to provide sufficient support to allow a residents' parking scheme to proceed."
Ms Hargey intends to raise the issue at a meeting with the DRD and MDA today.
Gerard Davison, an MDA spokesman, said cars were sometimes left three-deep on the footpaths and green spaces.
"The community is being destroyed," he added. Some 50 people turned out at 5.30am yesterday to block commuters from entering Stewart Street, Raphael Street and Eliza Street Close.
Children and mothers with prams said they had been forced to take action because of cars parking on the footpath outside St Malachy's Primary School and Stewart Street playground.
And residents told the Belfast Telegraph they had seen a disability bus unable to pick people up from their homes because of the congested streets.
One local, who did not wish to be named, claimed an 85-year-old man was left lying injured on the street for 20 minutes after falling when he was forced off the footpath by a car.
The MDA and DRD are meeting today in an attempt to resolve the issue.
A residents' parking scheme was proposed by the DRD a few years ago, but the plan failed to win the required support of two-thirds of the community.