Limavady residents and traders must fight a “ridiculous” proposal regarding changes to car parking charges that would “kill” the town centre, a meeting heard this week.
Mayor Michael Carten appealed for people to stand up and fight the move at a packed Chamber of Commerce meeting on Tuesday evening.
“In the past few years, with job losses and closures, the devastation has been terrible in this town. We need people to come into this town, not drive them away,” he said. “On no condition should there be parking meters in this town. Everyone in this town should stand up against it.”
Chamber President, Philip Kingston said he dreaded to think how much money would be sucked out of Limavady should the plans – proposed for 29 other towns in the North – go ahead.
Last year, the two DRD car parks in Limavady had a total take of somewhere in the region of £145,000 – £69,000 in one and £74,000 in the other, he told the meeting.
“I dread to think how much it will cost,” he said, explaining proposals included increasing the 30p an hour charge to 40p an hour and increasing the £60 penalty to £90.
Mr. Kingston said no one was “dying about” traffic wardens when they first hit Limavady’s streets, but said it was accepted they do a good job and ensure a turnover of free spaces on the streets. Many people using the free spaces do so to complete a few messages and before they know it they’ve spent 30-40, he said.
Mr. Kingston said he didn’t want Limavady to be seen as a special case, “but, if ever there was a town that didn’t need this, it is Limavady.”
Not only was it bad for Limavady but also bad for local businesses, he said.
Florist, owner of Wisteria Lane, Mary Rose Slevin said if the move goes ahead “it will kill the town centre”.
“It definitely won’t help,” she said. “People will only head somewhere to do their business.”
Long time businesswoman, Lucille Brolly of Lucille’s Kitchen said: “We are all just coming to terms with the traffic wardens and the one hour system is working well. This, if it goes ahead, would be a severe blow to traders and the people of the town. Just when things are getting stable they try to hammer us again.”
Representatives from most political parties running in the upcoming local council and Assembly elections voiced their opposition to the move.
Sinn Fein councilor, Anne Brolly said evidence was needed to show how such a move would not adversely affect the town’s economy, as had been claimed.
Referring to the current one-hour free space system in Limavady, she said: “It’s very reasonable. People should not have to pay for that and, once they do it here, they will go to other places like Dungiven and Feeny. It is not necessary in Limavady. I am certainly opposed to it.”
Sinn Colr. Cathal O’hOisin said in Newry it was claimed such charges actually increased footfall.
“We need to look at that and we need evidence of that.”
SDLP Colr. Michael Coyle was somewhat “sceptical” about the consultation. He said the Department should be looking at what is appropriate for each town, “not one size fits all,” he said.
“In this town there is no difficulty getting parked. We need to go to the Department and ask, is it really appropriate for a town like Limavady? I don’t think so.”
Fellow SDLP councillor, Gerry Mullan said the move was an attempt to try and suck the last few pennies out of the people of this town. It is ridiculous and we need to oppose this strongly.”
The DUP’s George Robinson said his party will “vociferously” oppose the proposal which, he claimed if introduced, would “kill this town”.
Mr. Kingston urged everyone to join the campaign and said whoever becomes the minister responsible for DRD “will listen to what we say, as well as the elected representatives, and look at a solution not so potentially damaging.”