Belfast Telegraph

Cost of parking fines may change in Northern Ireland as number issued drops 50,000 in eight years

By Noel McAdam

More than 300 parking fines are issued every day in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.

The Assembly heard there were a total of 110,000 fines in the province in 2015 - just over 300 for each day of the year.

Yet the overall annual total has fallen by more than 50,000 since the peak year of 2007, the Assembly was told yesterday.

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said: "The number of penalty charge notices issued has fallen from an all-time high of 163,000 in 2007 to 110,000 in 2015, despite the number of vehicles rising in that same period by up to 5%."

And now he is to consider a "sliding scale" of fines for a range of parking offences following an Assembly vote urging him to review the current £90 "punitive" parking fine.

But the Sinn Fein minister dismissed any suggestion of a reduction of the fine to £15.

"If we reduced it to that, I would be very worried at the impact it might have on urban clearways and main arterial routes," he said.

A DUP motion also calling for the first 30 minutes of parking to be free was passed by 57 votes to 32 against, along with a Sinn Fein amendment urging the minister to "look at options to review on-street car parking fees and fines". Mr Hazzard said he would consider a range of fines for different offences.

"Parking two or three inches outside a parking bay should not carry the same weight as blocking a main arterial route into the city. I am more than happy to look at that," he said.

He also revealed his department's current contract with NSL Services to provide parking enforcement and car park management services - which began in October 2012 for an initial four-year term - has recently been extended for a further three years.

The DUP's Trevor Clarke said he believed parking enforcement officers known as 'redcoats' "get an enjoyment out of punishing people".

"(They) seem to be overzealous in how they do their jobs. We hear of people being fined for parking a few inches outside of the limits of a box," he said.

But Sinn Fein's Sean Lynch argued the first 30 minutes of parking being free of charge would be "virtually impossible to manage".

"You can imagine traffic wardens running back and forth to see whether the 30 minutes had run out. Again, how much would that cost?" he asked.

The SDLP's Daniel McCrossan, arguing the DUP could have prevented a £30 rise in car parking fines back in 2012, said: "We have all witnessed to some degree, redcoats, as they have been called in the House, handing out tickets for the slightest mistake."

Alliance's Kellie Armstrong said: "None of us like parking fines, but, if the fine is high enough, it makes drivers think twice about parking dangerously or badly."

Belfast Telegraph


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