BANBRIDGE will lose one its major advantages over nearby towns and cities if parking charges are enforced next month.
That is the view of motorists who have made plain their anger at the Regional Development Minister’s proposals to charge 40p an hour in three of the town’s currently free car parks.
While Danny Kennedy defended his proposals by saying he had ensured some free parking would remain - albeit slightly further out of the town - road users say they are unconvinced and feel they are being subjected to another unnecessary tax.
One Leader reader said it would deter him and, in his view, many others from shopping in the town.
“Of course it puts you off,” said Adam Stirling. “That’s the only thing that differentiates Banbridge from places like Lisburn and Belfast.”
Lorraine Bell said she will be more inclined to visit retail centres with free parking. “It will be Craigavon for me, and the petrol is cheaper at their Tesco,” she said.
Following this paper’s revelation that it could cost those who work in Banbridge more than £800 every year for parking alone, some suggested a park and ride option for employees.
Alliance councillor Sheila McQuaid said, “It is really just a way of gathering taxes for the Road Service. I would like to see a free park and ride for people who work in Banbridge so as to leave parking available for shoppers in Banbridge.”
Lucy Cowan said people should make use of free parking already available at the Outlet Village.
She said, “Plenty of parking at the outlet - get the shuttle bus down.”
But those parking in Banbridge - whether to work or shop - should count themselves lucky, according to some readers who compared charges in other parts of Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Tara Purdy said, “All I can say is try living in Belfast. Minimum of £2 an hour parking for the city centre, I’d say Banbridge is not too bad.”
And Keith Scott said Banbridge should put up with charges just like many other towns and cities.
“Costs nearly £1000 a year to park-n-ride at sprucefield to work in Belfast,” said Keith. “To drive and park would be more. Don’t see why banbridge (or anywhere) should be any cheaper to be honest. Like everything else, if you’re prepared to walk a bit further then you can do it for less, or even for free.”
Aaron McNeill compared Banbridge to a UK town. “Banbridge prices are very cheap and a lot cheaper than most places in the UK. Try Stoke-on-Trent and it is £2.40 per hour minimum, some places £3.20 per hour.”
The latest proposals are yet another obstacle for local business, said Kelly Andrews.
“Bureaucracy and red tape continue to strangle small local business while at the same time Invest NI is pushing its ‘Go for it’ programme. The system is flawed and nothing seems to work in harmony.”