Mid Ulster Council backs move to reduce parking charges

Mid Ulster District Councillors voted unanimously in favour of finding a way to ‘implement suitable reduced car parking charges’ in the district town’s centres.

By Adam Morton
Friday, 26th February 2021, 3:42 pm

The motion was brought before the chamber by DUP group leader, Councillor Paul McLean but was amended by Sinn Fein councillor Dominic Molloy.

The amendment was accepted by Councillor McLean and the final wording of the supported motion was: “This Council as soon as is practically possible enters into meaningful discussion with the traders of the MUDC area, along with engagement with other relevant bodies including the Department of Economy, Infrastructure and Finance.

“To agree and introduce suitable reduced car parking charges and restrictions, as soon as COVID restrictions are lifted, developing a multi-agency approach, whereby re-engaging and encouraging footfall to our local towns and in so doing, assisting to sustain our businesses, shops and restaurants.”

A traffic warden

Introducing the motion Councillor McLean noted the hardship and stress traders in the district’s town centres have suffered from as a result of COVID-19 and urged the Council to enter into meaningful discussion with the traders to find a suitable car parking cost structure.

“We were three council’s that came together a number of years ago and found to our detriment that one shoe does not fit all,” said Cllr McLean.

“That might be down to zero but all I am saying at this moment is reduce.

“The purpose of this proposal is there is a piece of work needs to be done and that after that work is carried out, recommendations will be brought to members and then we will know what is required.”

The proposal was seconded by Councillor Wesley Brown who said it is important to encourage people into town centres when restrictions are lifted.

Ulster Unionist Party councillor Robert Colvin said his party would “have no difficulty supporting the motion”.

Cllr Molloy said he agreed “wholeheartedly with the sentiment of the motion” then brought forward his amendment.

“The reason for the amendment is two fold to broaden the motion to include not only off street car parking but also deal with issue around on street car parking waiting and return times associated with that,” he said.

“Secondly to include those department that may provide a funding stream to support the proposals.”

Before Cllr McLean indicated he would accept the proposed amendment, Councillor Trevor Wilson advised the chamber this will be a “big piece of work”.

“I have to pay tribute to our staff during this period. They worked diligently to try and get support to local business but I think its a very big piece of work to regenerate our town centres.”

With this amendment agreed on, Independent Councillor Barry Monteith sought to put forward another amendment urging Council to work towards the implementation of free car parking across the district.

The amendment was seconded by Councillor Dan Kerr.

The Chair of the Council, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan expressed some concern about tying council to a zero rate for its car parks without research on the financial impact of such a decision being conducted.

“Car parking has a £400,000 value to Council each year,” said the Chair.

“This amendment, if approved, would handcuff the ability to have some sort of process in seeing what the best outcome is, bear in mind that it would mean the financial outcome would not be in keeping with the Council’s budgetary considerations.

“The outcome of the motion and the first amendment would likely see the proposal move to Policy and Resources for further consideration. I wonder would you consider not moving this amendment for that reason.”

Cllr Monteith said he agreed with what was being said but stressed his amendment would not result in zero fee parking immediately.

“That would be irresponsible without a costing,” said Cllr Monteith.

“There needs to be an endgame and the objective has to be to move towards free car parking.”

SDLP group leader, Councillor Malachy Quinn said his party would be supporting the motion and agreed with others it “is a massive piece of work”.

Councillor Christine McFlynn said it was vital that Council helps its traders “as best as it possibly can”.

With no agreement in the chamber, Councillor Monteith’s amendment was put to a vote. It was defeated with only Cllrs Monteith and Kerr voting in support of it.

The SDLP members of Council choose to abstain as did Dungannon councillors Walter Cuddy and Denise Mullan, while the rest of the chamber voted against it.

When the motion was put to a vote it received unanimous support. Councillor McLean thanked members for their support and told the chamber “it is all about helping our traders”.

Council’s Chair Cathal Mallaghan said it was “clear to see the desire right across the chamber to do everything we possibly can to support traders in our town centres.”

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