Council row over free parking plan

Councillors who put the brakes on free Saturday parking in Lisburn were this week challenged as to whether they had the prosperity of local traders at heart.

The challenge came from Alderman Allan Ewart after a specially convened meeting of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council voted down a proposal to extend free off-street parking to Saturdays in December.

Narrowly defeated after it was proposed by Alderman James Tinsley and seconded by Mr Ewart, it was the third of three options for consideration, the second being to waive all off-street parking charges in December, and the first, to do nothing and leave in place the current five hours parking for £1, with Sundays and evenings (after 6pm) free.

The debate, available on audio on the council’s website, ended with option three falling by 16 votes to 15 and option one holding sway.

An amendment, proposed by Councillor Robbie Butler and seconded by Councillor Tim Mitchell, boiled down to extending free parking to Fridays as well. Mr Butler later withdrew his proposal, earning a swipe from Development Committee Chairman Mr Ewart.

“I am extremely disappointed,” said Mr Ewart, “that Councillors have refused to agree to free parking on Saturdays in the run-up to Christmas, and would ask those who voted against, do they really have the prosperity of our local businesses at heart?

“ . . . I am puzzled by the fact that I was approached by Councillor Butler to see if some help could be given to local traders over the Christmas period. I agreed, but bizarrely, having withdrawn his original proposal for reasons known only to himself, he then voted against free parking on Saturdays.”

During the meeting, Mayor, Councillor Thomas Beckett, registered his own disappointment that members “didn’t want to do anything”, which Councillor Jenny Palmer condemned as the wrong message for the Mayor to be sending out.

In a later statement, Mr Beckett said: “I had hoped that all elected members would have supported a good will gesture of extending existing arrangements.

“While I am personally disappointed at the actions of many in the Chamber, this is the decision of the Council, but as Mayor, I will continue to do whatever I can to work for local businesses, shoppers and residents alike and will ensure this matter is given the proper attention it deserves at a much earlier stage next year,”

Councillor Pat Catney was among those to welcome the outcome, though he objected to its characterisation as ‘doing nothing’. As a council they had “done plenty”, he said.

He had protested the “waste of money” in altering the council’s media and marketing campaign (£1,700 to amend voiceovers and £800 for banners) in tandem with the £10,000 loss in parking revenue, as pointed out by Councillor Amanda Grehan.

Other concerns included possible all-day parking by city centre workers and the potential for misuse as a park-and-ride facility.