‘Logistics’ blunder sparks outrage from local traders

November 26, 2018

A logistics blunder which saw the parking bays in Hill Street in Newry closed off from 7am on Thursday, in anticipation of the annual Christmas Lights Switch-on event which was taking place over 9 hours later – sparked anger and outrage amongst local businesses.

The management of the Supervalu store in the city took to social media upon opening up for business on Thursday morning to slam what was presumed to be a council decision to close off the city centre parking bays for an event that was not happening until 5.30pm.

“Council have hit upon another new and innovative way to put local traders out of business!” the Facebook rant began, before describing the decision to close the main shopping street down from 7am as “absolute genius!!”

“Much needed car parking spaces closed off for………. oh wait, nothing!! Because there is nothing actually happening in the closed off car parking spaces to warrant the car parking spaces being closed off! There’s no denying it, these guys are good!!” continued the post – which appeared along with photos of the closed off parking bays. 

Responding to the outcry over the gaffe, Newry SDLP councillor Michael Savage admitted that officials got it wrong when they closed off the Hill Street parking bays and he insisted the decision to do so was a logistics move made by officials without the knowledge or backing of local councillors.  Councillor Savage explained that once he had been contacted by “justifiably angry” traders, he contacted Council CEO Liam Hannaway and the cones were removed before 1pm.

“I am not in the habit of criticising Council Officials publicly but I think in this instance they simply got it wrong,” said Mr Savage.

“Councillors did not make this decision, it was a logistics decision made by officials. The first I and my councillor colleagues knew of it was when traders contacted me to complain that the parking bays were coned off from 7am for an event that was taking place at 5.30pm.

“Traders were facing a major hit to their day’s trading and were justifiably angry. I contacted Council CEO Liam Hannaway before lunchtime to see if action could be taken and the cones were moved before 1pm.”

The SDLP councillor added that whilst he understood the need to prepare for the Christmas switch-on event and to ensure all health and safety and access considerations were met, he did not believe this required closing off on-street parking access for a full trading day in one of the busiest retail weeks of the year leading up to Black Friday.

“Traders complained that they received no notice and Newry BID were also not informed so it was understandable that when traders arrived to open up and saw the parking bays coned off they were very angry,” he added, calling for a review of the decision that was made “to ensure that it doesn’t happen again and all stakeholders are informed and consulted going forward.”

“We are very proud of Newry’s place as a top retail destination and we all need to work together to ensure that we do not do anything to damage that.”