Free parking a boost, but more incentives needed

Lurgan Town Centre. INLM1212-404gc
Lurgan Town Centre. INLM1212-404gc
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Town centre traders received a boost with a day of free parking for customers on the Saturday before Christmas.

Now it’s hoped the incentive to attract more shoppers to the town can be extended in the coming year.

Parking, Lurgan Town Centre. INLM01-210

Parking, Lurgan Town Centre. INLM01-210

President of Lurgan Chamber of Trade Simon Dowey said he would like to see a “level playing field” for Lurgan as it tries to compete with Rushmere where customers can park for free all day.

Chair of Craigavon Council’s development committee, Councillor Carla Lockhart said she believed the free parking had worked well and it was something council would give consideration to extending.

She said: “Certainly it is something council will look at.

“We have always championed a closer working relationship with DRD with regards to off street parking charges as we believe it is a deterrent for people coming into the town centres.

“The committee will analyse data regarding footfall and trading figures, look at the cost, liaise with Road Service and certainly I personally would not be closed to making it a more regular feature.”

With a view to tackling the parking issue in the town centre, the development committe are currently pushing DRD to implement relaxed waiting restrictions in Windsor Avenue, Union Street, Carnegie Street and William Street from one hour in any two hours to two hours in any three.

Miss Lockhart added: “First soundings from a number of traders and as someone who was in the town myself I felt the free parking day was a great success and something that can be built upon in the days ahead.

“Free parking along with our extensive marketing campaign for the borough this Christmas has I believe worked well.

“This was I believe a small gift to our committed traders and our ratepayers.”

Mr Dowey said free parking would need to be extended to make a reall difference. He added : “The idea of free parking is great, though it needs to be extended significantly to a lot more days when you consider the high rates town centre businesses are paying.

“The big thing for us as traders is that we have people coming to shop in the town centre, not to be put off by car parking charges. At Rushmere parking is free which gives them a significant advantage.”

Mr Dowey said the Christmas trade in the town centre was comparable to last year - steady if unspectacular.

He said there hadn’t been a lot of growth though he commended businesses who endeavoured to “keep their heads above water”.