‘We need to get rid of traffic wardens’- Calls for on-street parking charges in Lisburn City Centre to be removed

A call has been made for on-street pay and display charges to be scrapped in Lisburn City Centre.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 4:16 pm
Councillor Jenny Palmer

Deputy Mayor Jenny Palmer called for the move in an attempt to “help retailers and customers” as Northern Ireland eases out of lockdown.

The UUP councillor said  that “willy-nilly” controlled parking zones were only implemented in Lisburn, Newry and Belfast, adding that it was “unfair” that elsewhere in Northern Ireland didn’t incur the tariffs.

On-street parking charges and parking and bus lane enforcement were suspended on March 24 last year due to Covid-19 before resuming at the end of June.

In Lisburn, 20p gets a motorists 15 minutes parking in the city centre with two hours costing £1.60.

Councillor Palmer said it was “long overdue” that free parking for a maximum of two hours was implemented by the Department of Infrastructure

“The intention behind this is to remove the costs of on-street parking to all of our shopping fraternity that want to come into our city and embrace a couple of our retailers without having to worrying about these charges,” the Deputy Mayor said.

“Why is it that I can come into Hillsborough Village and park for one to two hours and not have to worry about charges? It’s the same in Moira, Ballymena, Londonderry, and yet in Lisburn we have a regime here that makes people pay.

“If people spend twenty pence then that gives them 15 minutes. That’s hardly allows for someone to go and collect a prescription and make it back to their car.

“It’s about time that we make it more affordable for people to come and park in the city,” Cllr Palmer added. “We need to remove the charges and there is the regulation across Northern Ireland that allows for allows for a maximum stay of up to two hours.

“That allows for a good turnaround of people and gives people the opportunity to nip into our shops and other retailers, the same that is afforded to the rest of Northern Ireland bar Lisburn, Newry or Belfast.

“We want to help our retailers as we come out of this pandemic and what we want to do is get rid of the red coats and if there’s no meters then there’s no need.”

Councillor Alan Ewart took issue with the proposal when Deputy Mayor Palmer said moving traffic wardens into Hillsborough and Moria would “help tackle congestion” in the villages.

Cllr Ewart said: “The Deputy Mayor is proposing that we move the red coats out of Lisburn and put them in Hillsborough and Moira. Does that mean that the tickets issued in Lisburn will be issued in those villages driving the people away?

“I know Cllr Palmer is shaking her head but that’s what would happen. If we send the enforcers out to these villages then we will have the traders there coming back at us and saying that we’ve chased them out of Lisburn and we’ve given them a bigger headache.

“I would be very supportive of this proposal except for the wording surrounding Hillsborough and Moira.”

Meanwhile, the Lisburn Chamber of Commerce said they had been in discussions with DfI since August 2020 about removing the on-street parking charges.

A spokesperson said: “Lisburn is currently being disadvantaged by this policy. DfI have told us that the ‘primary purpose’ for on-street parking charges in Lisburn is to ‘obtain turnover of spaces’.

“However, this is easily achieved in our other urban centres by restricting free parking to one or two hours, after which the driver must move.

“We are delighted to have the full support of our MP, all Lisburn MLAs, as well as Retail NI and Lisburn and Castlereagh Borough Council.

“We have recently held a meeting with senior officials from DfI and look forward to common sense prevailing.”

Ulster Unionist Councillor Jim Dillion also backed the proposal saying traffic wardens were a “nuisance” to motorists.

He added: “I do not want to see red coats issuing tickets to people in Hillsborough and Moira or any other villages in Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.

“We’ve got to be very careful what we’re asking for here. The red coats control the car parks but at this moment of time they’re controlling our streets and quite honestly they’re a nuisance and we’ve got to get this into perspective.”

Councillor Alex Swan expressed concerns that the proposed new system would be abused, however.

He said: “If you make the parking free then when the shops open again and the staff return then you will find that people will park from 8am in the morning to 5pm at night.

“Free parking is great, but if you can nip in and out quickly and pay 50p then that’s not bad either so you there has to be a balanced approach.”

Meanwhile, Green Party councillor Simon Lee said he also didn’t see the benefit from the proposal.

“We will need various plans for recovery for the city when we come out of lockdown but this could be counter-productive because what is going to stop someone from parking in the city centre all day,” added Cllr Lee.

“We need to be careful that we are simply not taking away the meters because that could create problems and we need to be careful what we are asking for here.

“Do we have any evidence that taking away meters will have a significant impact on cars coming in and what is that based on? I think we need to do more research.

“If someone cannot afford twenty pence in Lisburn then what money are they going to be spending in Lisburn.”

Meanwhile, Retail NI CEO Glyn Roberts back the move to scrap the current model and called for it to be replaced by a one hour free system.

He added: “One hour on street car parking is the normal policy in our main town and cities and we want to see Newry and Lisburn given the same opportunity.

“Retail NI is working with our members and local Chambers of Commerce in those cities to achieve this objective as part of a wider support package for post pandemic high streets.

“We call upon the Infrastructure Minister to listen to the concerns of local traders and act immediately.”

In the end, all councillors except for Simon Lee approved the proposal and a letter was written to the Department of Infrastructure on March 31.

A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: “We can confirm LCCC has written to the Department last night seeking a review of the legislation associated with on street car parking and that the request for a review will be considered.”

Shaun Keenan , Local Democracy Reporting Service