Campaigners opposed to the possible introduction of charges at a number of council-run off-street car parks across the district have called on elected representatives to support “a free car parking zone in Mid Ulster”.
Members of the local council’s Environment Committee are expected to meet next week to discuss the controversial issue.
At the time of publication, Mid Ulster District Council said the agenda for next week’s committee meeting hadn’t been finalised. However, the Campaign Against Car Park Charges believes the matter is due to be discussed at the meeting on February 13 and a recommended way forward agreed that will then be put to full council for consideration at the end of the month.
In October last year the council launched a period of public consultation on its 10-year parking strategy for the district.
The strategy sets out how the council aims to provide “quality off-street parking provision,” which it became responsible for in April 2015, as well as options for the future operation of 23 off-street car parks in local towns and villages.
The proposals could see charging introduced at a number of car parks in Cookstown and Magherafelt - something the Campaign Against Car Park Charges group is vehemently opposed to.
Calling on councillors to oppose the introduction or retention of parking charges, group spokesman Harry Hutchinson said: “A decision on free car parking charges in the Mid Ulster area goes to the council committee stage next week. The committee will put forward a recommendation to a full council meeting at the end of the month.
“The Campaign Against Car park Charges has contacted all councillors in the Mid Ulster Council urging them to support the retailers and people’s campaign for a free car parking zone in Mid Ulster. To date some councillors have backed free car parking, however most of the councillors have not expressed any decision on the issue.
“The campaign group have asked all councillors to respond to the group’s request for their support and to seize the initiative from council officials who wish to impose car park charges on the people. Free car parking for Mid Ulster is now in the councillors’ hands.”
According to Mid Ulster District Council, the strategy proposes that both Loy Street and Orritor Street car parks in Cookstown remain free of charge, while both Union Place and Burn Road car parks become chargeable “given their locations adjacent to the main street and the current proportion of all-day parkers.”
Proposals for Magherafelt suggest that King Street car park remains unchanged, while Central and Union Road car parks should become fully chargeable given their proximity to the town centre.
Where charging is proposed, the strategy suggests that rather than ‘pay and display’, the car parks should become ‘pay on foot’ which reduces the need for enforcement and allows parkers to pay for the time they actually park.