Parking ticket policy must be fair, says MLA after disparities revealed

A huge disparity in parking tickets issued in different towns across Northern Ireland has been revealed.
A huge disparity in parking tickets issued in different towns across Northern Ireland has been revealed.

An MLA has called for action over how parking is enforced Province-wide after revelations of what he called a “big disparity” from one town to another.

Lord Morrow was speaking after it emerged that zero parking tickets were issued in some places last year – although it was also revealed yesterday that, overall, parking tickets are the lowest since at least 2007.

Crossmaglen, Bessbrook and Coalisland got no tickets at all in 2013, said the Department for Regional Development (DRD).

It is believed to be the fourth year that Coalisland has escaped any tickets, and DUP MLA Maurice Morrow said that the town has been left in “chaos” as a result.

Other statistical oddities have also come to light, including that Newtownabbey – with a council area covering more than 80,000 residents – received little over 200 tickets in a whole year, while much-smaller Omagh received nearly 4,000 tickets.

Lord Morrow said: “We need the minister to declare that there is going to be a fair and impartial enforcement of traffic regulations right across this country.

“Whether that’s Dungannon, or Coalisland, or any other town, that’s it. We have to ensure that no town gets a privileged status. There has to be a fair and equal imposition of regulations.”

There is a “big disparity” between Coalisland and similar-size settlements, he added.

In the case of Coalisland, the DRD said: “Traffic attendants may only issue (tickets) where and when restrictions have been infringed upon... Due to the low numbers of restrictions presently in Coalisland, traffic attendants visited the town on five occasions in 2013 and issued no (tickets).”

It said past attempts to increase numbers of restrictions had not been acceptable to councillors and businesses in Coalisland, but that its officials are now working on creating restrictions which would be acceptable to all.

In more general terms, the DRD said: “We do not have the resources to provide regular parking enforcement everywhere in Northern Ireland, especially in small towns and villages” – and so it had to focus on particular areas.

Elsewhere, one councillor believes congratulations are in order for some motorists.

Upon hearing of the 218 tickets issued in Newtownabbey last year, DUP Alderman Jackie Mann, who chairs the borough council’s development committee, said: “Have a look at Crossmaglen, and see how many they got – none. So really, you know, 218 (for a town of Newtownabbey’s size) I think is very good.

“I’d congratulate the people of Newtownabbey.”

Wide gap, but a drop over time

Although there are big differences, town-by-town, in general terms the number of tickets being issued has decreased.

In 2013, 108,558 tickets were issued across the Province.

But that was more than 4,000 lower than the year before.

In 2007, the figure was 163,586.

Roads Minister Danny Kennedy said: “The decrease in tickets is a positive indication that our objective of encouraging people to park properly is working.

“If drivers heed our advice then tickets cannot be issued.

“In the wider context, we are seeing road users being more compliant with the requirements of parking restrictions.”