There have been fresh calls for a review of the pricing strategy for off-street parking in Banbridge, a factor which traders believe has contributed to underused car parks and reduced footfall in the town.
Upper Bann MP David Simpson has urged the ABC Council to consult with business owners as they formulate a new pricing strategy, as powers for this service are being transferred from the Department of Regional Development to the ABC Council from April 1.
It is believed however, that the ABC Council has confirmed it will continue with the current charging structure.
Pointing to the continued loss of trade because of ‘the robust charges being levied,’ Mr Simpson said: “The cost of car parking in Banbridge is not a new issue but yet it remains unsolved and I believe is costing businesses customers.
“Parking in the town centre car parks is a premium and I believe there remains a very real problem caused by the pricing strategy.”
Mr Simpson said that in recent days customers and business owners had approached him with their concerns, stating that car parks are empty.
“I believe the council needs to bring about a common sense resolve to this on-going problem.”
“Having spoken with the Chamber of Trade and with local business owners it is my intention to meet the new Chief Executive of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council to discuss the need for consultation with the Chamber, with business owners and road users, as they take steps to formulate a new pricing strategy.
“We need a measured approach in this situation and it is vital that we get it right.”
Mr Simpson said the move was important to ensure that the vibrant town centre that already exists in Banbridge, remains a shopper-friendly town with adequate and affordable pricing for car parking.
“Given that the new Council will take up their powers on April 1, I believe it should be a priority going forward,” he said.
“I personally believe it gives a new and exciting opportunity to do something different than other local towns.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Regional Development confirmed that NSL currently manage five car parks in Banbridge on behalf of the DRD.
Commercial Road with 112 spaces, Downshire Place with 106 spaces, and Kenlis Street with 80 spaces all offer five hours parking for £1.
The other two - Bridge Street East with 115 spaces and Townsend Street with 68 spaces are less expensive to park, offering three hours parking for 30 pence.
Charges were first introduced in Banbridge in July 2012 when motorists made plain their anger at the proposal of the then Regional Development Minister, Danny Kennedy, to charge 40p an hour in three of the town’s free car parks.
Residents and traders said they feared Banbridge would lose one its major advantages over nearby towns and cities if the parking charges were enforced.