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Parking fines could ‘drive shoppers from city centre’

Motorists are facing a 50 per cent rise in fines for illegal parking – just days after the Democrat reported how the firm that enforces parking restrictions pocketed over £250,000 from Newry motorists last year. Roads Minister Danny Kennedy announced that the maximum penalty for illegal street parking is set to increase from £60 to £90. In 2011m almost 8,500 motorists were issued with parking tickets in Newry, paying out a cool £254,970 to private firm NSL. Mr Kennedy said the aim the new penalties was to ensure that drivers obeyed the rules of the road. However the organisation that represents the independent retail sector said that the sharp increase could drive shoppers out of the city centre. Glyn Roberts chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIRTA) also urged ‘red coats’ to drop their “over-zealous approach” to fines. “In our discussions with Mr Kennedy we outlined our concerns about the penalty being increased  to £90 as it could well deter consumers from shopping in town centres,” said Mr Roberts. “In the last 6 months our office has been inundated  with calls from members right across Northern Ireland informing us that the ‘red coats’ have adopted an overzealous approach to issuing fines in their town centres. We fully appreciate the important role the ‘red coats’ have in ensuring a turnover of cars in town centres and in reducing congestion in town centres. However they need to adopt a more sensitive approach and not always issue a ticket if someone’s car was just a few minutes overtime.” Mr Roberts said NIRTA will be meeting with Mr Kennedy to discuss this issue further and for the need for a more effective car park strategy to ensure town and city centres can be more user friendly to shoppers using their cars. Mr Kennedy said revenue made from parking fines would go towards improving road maintenance: “The additional revenue needs to maintain frontline services such as pothole repairs and street maintenance must be found to avoid further annual increases in car parking charges over the life time of the budget.”           


Newry Democrat

24th April 2012