Drivers fined on Christmas Eve after expiry of ‘free Christmas parking’

Pay and display sign at a carpark in Northern Ireland
Pay and display sign at a carpark in Northern Ireland

A local council in Northern Ireland whose ‘free Christmas parking’ scheme expired well before December 25 is facing the wrath of confused drivers stung by hefty fines on Christmas Eve who mistakenly assumed they could still park for free.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council has been forced to defend its free Christmas parking scheme following criticism from angry motorists.

A number of drivers were issued with parking tickets in Banbridge town centre on December 24 after failing to pay and display - many wrongly believing that the free Saturday parking offer was still in operation.

At the end of November the council’s website carried the headline “Council gives the gift of free Saturday parking for Christmas’. The article clearly stated, however, that free parking would only be on offer until December 17. Details of the scheme were also carried in the local media.

However, many angry motorists who received tickets have criticised the scheme, questioning why it didn’t run right up until Christmas.

One woman revealed how she had luckily managed to avoid a ticket at Bridge Street on Christmas eve, but said many other motorists weren’t so lucky. “You would think they could have given free parking today as well, some towns down south have had free parking all of December,” she posted on the Banbridge Saints and Sinners Facebook page.

“With the last two Saturdays being free I assumed the Saturday (Christmas eve) would be free. Thankfully someone warned me as I was walking away (from my car),” another woman added.

Another disgruntled driver who branded the ticketing of cars on Christmas eve “a disgrace”, added: “It’s either free parking for the Christmas / New Year period or no shoppers in town!”

Responding to the criticism, a spokesperson for Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council stressed that shoppers had been “clearly advised” that the free parking scheme would end on December 17.

“Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council approved and introduced free Saturday parking in the run-up to Christmas 2016. The free Saturday parking scheme kicked off on Saturday December 3rd and ran until Saturday December 17th. Shoppers and businesses were advised that the free Saturday parking offer applied only to council-owned and operated car parks and off-street pay-and-display parking areas. They were also clearly advised through a substantial media campaign and signage in car parks that Saturday 17th December was the final day for free car parking,” she said.