A paid-for car park will be created in front of Larne’s Riverdale shops, despite protests from traders.
Transport Minister Danny Kennedy announced at Stormont last week that from early June, motorists will be charged 20 pence an hour at Riverdale East. The other 42 spaces at Riverdale will remain free to use.
The announcement came as a shock to traders, who had thought the battle to keep all the spaces free had been won last year. Rosie Craig at Larne Upholstery said: “We thought they had decided against charging, but they must have changed their minds.
“The car park is always full and brings customers to this end of the town. Small businesses have enough to pay for without having to worry about this will affect them.”
Simon Jay at Bric-A-Brac said he was shocked by the news. “It’s not a ridiculous charge, but I think it will affect trade.
“A lot of people would call in to have a look around or to have a cup of tea either on their way to or from the other shops at Riverdale or in the town centre.
“They don’t have to worry about parking charges at the moment, but if they’re thinking about the meter running they might not stop in the future.”
DRD denies there has been any U-turn on the issue of introducing charging at Riverdale East.
Presenting his proposals to the committee for regional development on car parks and a 50 per cent hike from £60 to £90 for illegal parking, Mr Kennedy reaffirmed his pledge not to proceed with a controversial proposal for on-street parking charges in towns in Northern Ireland.
He added: “I have ensured that there is free off-street or on-street car parking in most towns, which includes 387 free car parking spaces in Larne.
“The off-street car parks may be a walk from the town centre, but offer a free alternative to charged parking.
“Given the tough economic climate that town centre businesses are operating in, I have decided to hold the proposed Year Two review on car parking charges for two months.”
Mr Kennedy expressed the belief that introducing car park tariffs “will encourage turnover of car parking spaces, which will help to improve traffic management and promote the commercial and tourist vitality of our towns”.
Free car parking spaces in Larne are: Bridge Street 38; Circular Road East 151; Exchange Road 87; High Street 16; Inver 22; ramp 31; Riverdale 42.