Parking charge campaign is set to move up a gear

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COOKSTOWN is fighting back against car parking charges as the town’s Chamber of Commerce launched a petition this week to stop the looming pay to park proposals.

On the first day alone over 1,000 signatures appeared on the petitions as local people pledged to voice their opposition and anger at the on-street parking charges.

Installation of parking meters could be seen as early as next year, which the president of the Chamber of Commerce says could severely damage businesses.

In a bid to stop the incoming charges, Brian Jordan has called on all Cookstown businesses, retailers and shoppers to put the pen to paper and stand against them.

“This petition shows how serious the Chamber of Commerce is about these parking charges, we represent the majority of town business owners and all are opposed to these proposals,” Brian told the MID.

“They are incensed and angered and the members have asked us to take some action to stand up and be accounted. There’s no point in coming after the consultation has ended and the charges are introduced.

“We need to demonstrate and say no to it. It will effect every person who comes into the town, be it business owners, retailers or shoppers.

“If they are introduced, everyone will pay. The retailers will be severely damaged. There are currently over 50 members and we have also opened to non-members so they too can have their say.

“We want to open it to a wide group of businesses, from along the main street, from Fairhill, Orritor Street, Molesworth Street, Burn Road and all the side streets between. We would like over 100 businesses or more taking part in it.

“We have had 1,000 signatures within a day, our target is 10,000 and it will run until the end of April. We will then pass it to the new Minister and hope it will be on top of his in-tray.

“We need to have our say and tell the Regional Development Department that we won’t allow it.

“I would ask everyone to support and put their details on it and as soon as we get the petitions back we will present it to the incoming Minister.”

Cookstown SDLP Councillor Tony Quinn has also been raising his concerns over the proposed introduction of on-street parking charges and said it will damage the town’s economy.

The repeated warning came following a written answer from the minister to a question asked by the SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone.

Councillor Quinn said: “The introduction of a parking tax by the Roads Minister would damage Cookstown’s economy and harm town centre businesses.

“Local town centre businesses are already suffering from reduced economic activity during the current recession.

“The Minister’s response to these concerns has been totally unsatisfactory. In his written answer the Minister commits to the implementation of on-street parking charges “in all towns” for 2012/13, before any supposed consultation has even taken place. And despite that commitment, there has been no assessment by the department of the impact on retail trade.”

only a vague promise of some assessment some time in the future.

“The response has confirmed that the minister has simply conjured out of thin air a new revenue gathering mechanism without regard to its impact on the wider economy. There has been certainly no regard to its impact on the economy of rural towns.

“It is an ill-thought-out attempt to introduce a new tax on drivers in order to patch over gaps in the Roads Minister’s budget.”