Views heard on parking charges

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THE South Eastern Health Trust hosted a public meeting at the Lagan Valley Hospital to discuss the proposal of staff, patients and visitors being charged car parking fees.

The meeting on Thursday, January 15, is part of the Trust’s ongoing consultation period for the proposal of car parking charges being introduced at Lagan Valley, Ards and Downe hospitals.

Speaking after the meeting David Cairns, Communications Officer for Lisburn Unison Branch, said: “We feel that this is another tax on low paid workers and on staff, who have had a pay freeze since the coalition government came in.”

The intention was to let hospital staff and members of the public hear the Trust’s proposals for traffic management, before asking questions. Attendees were told that providing long term, safe, secure and affordable parking for staff was among the issues the Trust is taking into consideration.

Members of the Trust said traffic management at the Lagan Valley Hospital needs to be improved. There are 450 parking spaces at the hospital, but cars are still found parked on double yellow lines and blocking junctions and routes through the site.

The issue is made worse by people using the site for free parking during the week, especially on Market Day. Despite this the charge for parking at the hospital will have to be sensitive to local prices, so staff, patients and visitors are not penalised.

After hearing the concerns raised at the meeting NI21 Councillor Johnny McCarthy said: “I have many concerns regarding the introduction of car parking charges at Lagan Valley. I feel that staff, who have had a pay freeze for a number of years, will be squeezed further by this extra expenditure.

“I am also concerned about what record there will be of any money made through car parking charges and how that money is used.

“The Trust need to take into consideration any future development of the Lagan Valley site to ensure that it improves the service for all users, as traffic is already an issue in the area.”

The Trust said the plan is to manage parking charges internally, as they are at the Ulster Hospital, except for the people who come in to clamp cars that are parked in non-parking spaces.

Eamonn Molloy, South Eastern Trust Director of HR and Corporate Affairs said: “We welcome the opportunity to engage with the community and staff on this traffic management issue.

“While the attendance was low there is every opportunity for people to make their views known and I would encourage everyone with an interest to use the consultation period to influence and shape our plans for future car parking on our hospital sites,” he said.