Shops fear losing trade over 400 parking fines every day
"Over-zealous" traffic wardens dish out more than 400 tickets every day to motorists in Northern Ireland, figures show.
Traders have hit out at the "fining policy" after it emerged that 152,723 fines were issued across Northern Ireland in 2017 - just over 418 each day of the year on average.
A total of 131,916 penalties were issued for on and off-street offences in 2017 - a hike of 9% when compared to the 120,917 fines recorded in 2016, new figures show.
A further 20,807 penalty charge notices (PCNs) were handed out for bus lane offences, a report from the Department for Infrastructure (DFI) revealed.
Retail NI boss Glyn Roberts has blasted the "staggering statistics" and he described the sheer number of tickets being levied on drivers as "outrageous".
Mr Roberts said there were widespread concerns that punitive penalties are driving shoppers to out-of-town superstores.
"Retail NI has consistently hit out at the this over-zealous fining policy and the negative message it sends out to shoppers who use their cars to travel to town centres," he said.
"The only winners are the large out-of-town supermarkets, which have free car parking and no traffic attendants."
Mr Roberts also called for "sensible and fair enforcement of car parking and bus lanes as well as an end to this current excessive strategy".
The penalty charge for a parking ticket is £90, reduced to £45 if paid within 14 days of receiving the ticket.
A DFI spokesman said it's "important that appropriate action is taken to discourage those who park or use bus lanes illegally".
"Enforcement of parking restrictions and bus lanes aims to reduce the number of illegally-parked vehicles and unauthorised vehicles using bus lanes during operational hours," he added.
"This, in turn, will reduce traffic congestion, improve road safety, improves accessibility for all road users, including Blue Badge holders and improves bus journey times."
Red coats gave out 94,452 PCNs to NI motorists in 2017 for on street parking offences - a rise of 11% on the previous year.
Almost 50% (41,557) of all on-street tickets were issued in Belfast compared to 41% the previous year, with a further 7,057 fines issued in Newry and 6,183 issued in Londonderry.
Meanwhile, no on-street PCNs were distributed in eight Northern Ireland towns - Ahoghill, Aughnacloy, Ballykelly, Castlewellan, Cullybackey, Dromore (Co Tyrone), Newtownstewart and Portglenone.
The number of PCNs for off-street parking increased by 4% last year, while fines issued for bus lane offences dropped by 25% during the same period.
DFI data also shows that three-quarters of the 20,807 PCNs issued for bus lane offences were handed out in just three Belfast locations - Donegall Square East (35%), Great Victoria Street (23%) and College Square East (16%).
According to the statistics, the number of bus fines is down 25% from 2016 (27,911) - but one of the cameras was switched off.