Councils can't tell car parks not to charge
Northern Ireland Conservatives' spokesman Bill McKendry states that "one major factor which dissuades shoppers from coming into town and city centres is the high cost of parking" (Write Back, November 24).
Mr McKendry goes on: "One way in which councils can help deliver a timely boost for retailers is by implementing a parking charges amnesty over the Christmas period". He says "such an amnesty is a simple measure".
A parking charge amnesty is not a 'relatively simple measure' for councils to implement, because councils don't own or control town and city centre car parks and legislation does not exist permitting them to do so.
Town and city centre car parks are either privately operated businesses, or are owned and operated by the Department of Regional Development (DRD). The DRD is a department of the Assembly and councils have no jurisdiction over it. Mr McKendry may like to note that last year, Ards councillors, accompanied by council officers, met with Conor Murphy, then DRD minister, and argued for a reduction in car park charges in the run-up to Christmas. The request fell on deaf ears.
CLLR TOM HAMILTON (UUP)
Ards Borough Council