Council moves to end free Christmas parking

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Belfast City Council is poised to end free parking in the city centre during the run up to Christmas.

Shoppers last year were able to park up in one of 1,500 free spaces at night times and weekends. This year, the council looks set to drop the free parking scheme after an intervention from Translink, who said it leads to traffic congestion.

Translink has offered to reduce fares and increase services. A Belfast City Council committee voted in favour of the parking changes but the decision will need to be approved at a full council meeting next month for approval.

Green Party Councillor Ross Brown said he was in favour of the proposal.

“I think 1,500 out of 28,000 parking spaces in Belfast were the free ones last year and what you found was that people were driving around looking for a free space and that was creating a fair bit of traffic congestion,” he said.

“Translink have a reliability survey for the number of their trains and buses that arrive on time and they noticed a big decline in the run up to Christmas last year.

“Many of the free spaces were being taken by office workers anyway so it wasn’t really having the desired effect.

“There’s nothing worse for people than coming into Belfast to do a bit of shopping and being stuck in traffic.

“Even for people in rural areas, there are a lot more park and ride schemes now so this isn’t something that should put people off from coming into Belfast for their shopping.”

However, DUP councillor Tom Haire said he was in favour of keeping the scheme.

“I know there are people in country areas who would normally come into Belfast and they don’t know where to go,” he told the BBC.

“They’re confused with the bus lanes to start with and people are staying away from it.

“We want to encourage them to come in and I would support free car parking coming up to Christmas.”