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Minister to consider ‘free parking for hour’ in Newry

Roads Minister Danny Kennedy is to consider a free parking for first hour system in Newry to help entice shoppers back into the heart of the city. Mr Kennedy met with city centre traders in Newry on Thursday evening to discuss ongoing issues surrounding parking spaces, parking charges and fines. Traders told the Minister they were deeply unhappy with current parking facilities in Newry and claimed it was having a detrimental impact on trade. Among a number of suggestions to improve the simmering situation was to introduce a free parking for first hour system. Hill Street trader Gerard Rice told the Minister: “We are not asking for anything special. All we want is free parking for the first 60 minutes, even if only a pilot scheme; we need to do something before it’s too late. We are only asking for help, we want the same as Warrenpoint, Banbridge and Lurgan. We want one hour, an hour that will give us the chance to take on The Quays.” Other issues raised included the removal of parking spaces on Merchant’s Quay, free parking at city centre car parks and long stay car park facilities. Speaking after the meeting Mr Kennedy told the Democrat: “It was a useful exchange and at times a robust exchange. I understand the concerns that were expressed by many of the traders and there are a number of issues that I have indicated that I will seek to explore further.” When asked if he will be considering free parking for the first hour in the city centre Mr Kennedy added: “There were a number of matters including that issue that I undertook to look at and explore.” The Ulster Unionist MLA said he would get back to traders “as quickly as possible and respond accordingly.” Another issue raised was the removal of parking spaces along Merchant’s Quay as part of a £2.5m Public Realm Scheme to regenerate areas along Newry Canal. Severe parking penalties was also raised by Jack Murphy with some traders accusing some Traffic Wardens of being over zealous. Stephen Begley pointed to the 600 free parking spaces at Tesco which he said was killing city centre business. Raymond Goss also raised the need for parking facilities for people in full time employment in the city centre. While acknowledging difficulties for traders surrounding parking Mr Kennedy said the issue was not solely responsible fro the many businesses currently struggling. He Said: “Government has to listen and has to pay attention but in terms of economic turndown to label everything at the door of car parking problems is slightly distorting. We need also to look at better planning, rates and how to repopulate town centres.” Mr Kennedy added that he would consider all points raised at the meeting.


Newry Democrat

19th November 2013