Craigavon councillors are calling for “a campaign to work out sensible changes to the car parking charges that are squeezing the life out of Lurgan and Portadown – and every other major town in Northern Ireland”.
The demand arose on Monday night when it emerged that the charges in the rarely-used Marley Street car park in Portadown are being reduced from 40p and hour to 30p for three hours, the same charges that pertain in the William Street car park in the town.
Alderman Gladys McCullough insisted that change was needed all round, in view of the fact that the town’s main charge park at Magowan Buildings “is usually about one-third full, and waiting time in Lurgan is being changed from one hour in two, to two hours in three, which would be appreciated in Portadown.”
Outgoing council member Stephen Moutray agreed, but added that the ways of bureaucracy were slow – “Such changes can take a long time,” he added. “We have been talking about this for about two years.”
Councillor Carla Lockhart said that traders in both towns were “totally frustrated” as their businesses went from bad to worse. “Many businesses are badly hit, the car parks are empty, charges have not worked and they should be abolished.”
But Councillor Johnny McGibbon claimed that an overall plan was required and that a finely-balanced system of free and charge parking was required, “not like the current money-making exercise, but a scheme to help the traders”.
“If everything was free, all-day parkers would take up the prime spaces,” he added. “A happy medium is required.”
Roads service officials at the meeting said they would take the issue back to the DRD, but pointed out that the responsibility for parking would be transferred to the new super councils after 2015.
Alderman Arnold Hatch stated that the current contract over charges and traffic wardens lasted until 2016, and after that the costs would come from the rates. “You need to get real in all this,” he added.
Meanwhile a car park in Lurgan’s North Street is set to be turned into a pay facility.
Currently a free car park and owned by St Peter’s Church, planning permission was recently sought to transform it into a pay parking facility.
One shop owner welcomed the move saying that currently it is being used all day by workers rather than shoppers.
He added that church needs the cash to help pay for the church building work.