Lisburn Chamber of Commerce has called upon the Infrastructure Minister to introduce one hour free on-street car parking in the city centre.
In conjunction with Retail and Newry BID, the business groups are calling for the same one hour free on-street car parking schemes which other local towns and cities successfully operate.
The call comes after requests to meet with the Minister for Infrastructure were refused and the Department has so far failed to review the current situation.
In a joint statement, Retail NI and Lisburn Chamber of Commerce said: “For too long Lisburn city centre has been at a competitive disadvantage to other town and city centres because we have paid on-street car parking and they do not. Shoppers and visitors have said that a quick visit to other town centres without the hassle of finding spare change is welcome and hassle-free. The one-hour free on-street car parking still ensures that there is enforcement, the turnover of cars and will be no issue with congestion. Now that we are preparing to reopen our city centres, this measure would be a much-needed boost to our retail and hospitality sectors and help on the long road to recovery.
Our organisations will continue to champion choice for the shopper, should this be public transport, walking, cycling and of course by car.
We are extremely disappointed that the Infrastructure Minister has refused not just to meet us, but has also refused to even agree to a review of on-street car parking in Newry and Lisburn. Even a six-month trial of free one-hour on-street carparking would be helpful.”
Responding to the concerns of local retailers, a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure said: “Minister Mallon recognises that the Covid emergency has placed town centres and commercial businesses under great pressure and wishes to assist with developing sustainable and community enhancing solutions. She has asked her officials to assist councils and BIDs with developing plans for footway extensions, parklets and hospitality spill-out areas. If we are to ensure that our town and city centres are attractive, liveable and successful places, we need to make space for people. Removing charges for on-street parking is likely to encourage people to access centres by car and to seek on-street spaces, rather than those in dedicated off-street car parks and may encourage increases in town centre circulating traffic.”
The Minister has also been approached directly by Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council regarding the current situation on parking charges and Controlled Parking Zone in Lisburn City Centre.
She has responded that the most appropriate way to review these will be within the Transport Plan prepared in conjunction with the Local Development Plan. The Transport Plan will require the Department and the Council to jointly prepare a Parking Strategy which will consider the provision, management and operation of all parking in Lisburn, both on and off street in conjunction with other modes of transport. The Minister remains committed to working with the Councils to enhance town centres for everyone as lockdown restrictions are eased and lifted.
Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “It is entirely unacceptable that Lisburn and Newry are singled out for these on-street parking charges in a way that I believe deters people from shopping in our city centre. I see no valid reason why Lisburn shouldn’t be treated the same as other urban centres in Northern Ireland and have the same regulations applied whereby the first hour of parking is free of charge in the city centre on-street locations. I have been supporting Lisburn Chamber of Commerce in pressing the Minister to urgently review these charges and it is disappointing that. to date, she has failed to do so.”