Linkage scheme and pay-and-display conversions prompt parking concerns

November 27, 2012

By Christine Keighery

The £1.5 million linkage scheme for Newry city has raised concerns that the loss of around 120 parking spaces along Merchant’s Quay will lead to a parking crisis in the city.

In addition, the planned installation of pay and display machines in three city centre car parks has sparked fears among traders that shoppers could be forced from the area.

The Department of Regional Development (DRD) has already confirmed the new pay and display arrangements for the Cathedral car park, and revealed that the move was part of a Roads Service province wide project aimed at delivering savings in the cost of the operation of its parking enforcement and car parking management contract.

Car park users will now have to pay for a predicted length of time upon entering the car parks, rather than the current system of paying on exiting.

Apart from the anger felt at the job losses which will happen as a result of the pay-and-display conversions, local traders also fear the scheme could have a negative impact on city centre businesses as “impulse shopping” will no longer be an option for shoppers.

Hill Street shop owner, Declan McChesney, believes the plan “removes the freedom of the shopper.”

Mr McChesney said that, with prepaid parking, “it is not even an option to go for an unplanned coffee.” The retailer added that the plan “beggars belief” and expressed concern about the way in which the current employees manning the car parks have been treated.

The DRD has refuted any claims of a negative impact on trade in the city centre, maintaining that “tariffs which are currently charged in car parks will not change as a result of the conversion from kiosk to pay and display.”

A DRD spokesperson also addressed concerns about the reduction of spaces due to the upcoming public realm scheme:

“To compensate for the proposed loss of car parking along the canal-side of Merchants Quay, Council have agreed to work with Newry City Centre Management Partnership (NCCMP) to formalise the opening of the Corry Square/Catherine Street council owned site as an upgraded car-park on a longer term basis.  DSD are also seeking to work closely with NCCMP to investigate upgrading of the former North Street Flats site, just off Abbey Way to a more formal long-term car-park that could be opened all year round and not just at Christmas.”