No decision on Cookstown’s free car parking yet, despite £54k deficit

No decisions have been made on Cookstown's free parking, but both Dungannon and Magherafelt pay
No decisions have been made on Cookstown's free parking, but both Dungannon and Magherafelt pay

News that Mid Ulster council is to oversee all off-street car parks from April 1 without any extra funding, has cast fresh doubt on whether parking will continue to be free in Cookstown.

The responsibilty, just one of a number of jobs councils take on, cost the Department of Rural Development [DRD] around £170k last year in Magherafelt and Dungannon.

No figures were available for Cookstown as parking in the town was “not charged”.

A spokesperson for the council, however, told the Mail that just days before the transfer they learned that carparks are “being under-funded to the tune of £54,000”.

Shadow chair for Mid Ulster council, Cathal Mallaghan, told the Mail: “Off street car parks are transferring over to council and Road service [TransportNI] are in the process now of cutting off the electricity which goes to the street lights within the car parks.

“Council will have to go and get a new connection to get electricity to the street lights,” he explained, “and the budget that has been transferred from DRD to all the councils is £200,000. Whenever you break that down Mid Ulster is likely to get about £17,000.”

When the Mail asked Mid Ulster council if this means Cookstown will now have to pay for parking, it responded: “The council has yet to make any decisions on the current charging arrangements in operation in Mid Ulster.”

When asked about the costs, a spokesperson for DRD said: “The costs of running charged car parks includes amongst many things: rates, the deployment of Traffic Attendants, parking machine maintenance and cleaning; but as Cookstown does not have any charged car parks, costs are only available for 2013/14 for Dungannon which was £69,017 and for Magherafelt was £100,714.

“Car parks that are transferring are fit for purpose. They are inspected regularly and are in use daily and will continue to be up to the point of transfer. Nothing further will be paid to councils to look after them once they have transferred.”