Council unites on free parking day

Lurgan shoppers are to benefit from an extra unexpected festive bonus after Craigavon councillors united to pay for a ‘free parking day’ before Christmas.

Craigavon Council is set to come to a deal with the DRD Roads Service to provide free car parking in Lurgan and Portadown town centres on December 21.

The proposal, put forward by the DUP, aims to have a free parking day to help traders boost their footfall in the run up to Christmas.

It was passed unanimously by all councillors on Monday night.

Cllr Carla Lockhart, proposing the motion, said it would be a Christmas present to the traders and ratepayers. “It is something small that we can do in the run-up to Christmas.”

Ms Lockhart said she and other councillors, along with traders, had held meeting with the DUP Minister of Finance with car parking charges a key discussion point.

She praised UUP DRD minister Danny Kennedy for introducing reduced parking over the Christmas period.

The motion was seconded by her party colleague Cllr Gladys McCullough who said car parking was not the only reason for a drop in trade.

Sinn Fein Cllr Gemma McKenna asked what the estimated cost of the free day of parking would be. “It is not free. Our ratepayers will have to pay,” she said.

A council official said there had been discussions with DRD who revealed that based on figures from the same time last year it would cost approximately £2,400.

Sinn Fein Cllr Tommy O’Connor asked how the council would measure its success. The council official said they would work with local retailers to gauge footfall on the day.

Cllr Mairead O’Dowd asked what happens if it is a huge success and it costs a lot more money. The official said the cash would come from council reserves.

Cllr O’Connor pointed out that at that rate free car parking would cost the borough £900k a year.

After the motion was passed, Upper Bann MP David Simpson commended the council on their decision.

He said: “I am delighted. This will benefit greatly the traders as it will increase footfall.

“It will also benefit our ratepayers and will attract others from outside our borough to come and be a part of our superb shopping experience within our town centres.

“I raised this with Cllr Lockhart some two weeks ago and I am delighted council have been able to deliver this much-needed boost for businesses.”