A FRANK exchange of views on parking took place on Wednesday between ‘frustrated and concerned’ members of Portadown Chamber of Commerce and Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy.
The meeting was requested by the town traders’ organisation in light of an announcement made last week, which will see Portadown lose 202 spaces across three car parks from June. There will also be an increase in penalty charges from £60-£90.
While there was no turn-around on the car park announcement, the Minister has agreed to a series of regular meetings between Roads Service representatives and the chamber, with the first being on Monday.
He also told the gathering of worried traders in Portadown Town Hall that he would bring their concerns back to the executive.
Speaking yesterday (Thursday) morning, president of the chamber Adrian Farrell acknowledged the willingness of the Minister to “go into the lion’s den” but said the issue was far from resolved and that the chamber would continue to push for the department to “rethink” the parking issue.
The Chamber has accused the Department of Regional Development (DRD) of “undermining” the local business community’s attempts to sustain trade in the current recession, and has said the parking measures will have a detrimental affect on trade.
Mr Farrell said members had expressed their “grave concerns” to the Minister and that there had been a full and frank discussion.
Issues discussed at the meeting were the loss of the free spaces in the three car parks, the inflexibility of traffic wardens, the change to pay and display in Magowan West, bus stops and loading bays, and the increase in parking fines.
Mr Farrell said, “The Minister answered all the questions as best he could; he didn’t try to evade any of them. The Portas Review was mentioned, which explores the possibility of options such as having the first two hours in a car park free, with a charge of say a pound an hour after that.
“I believe there is a need for the department to look at the wider car parking strategy across the province.”
Mr Farrell added, “Members are frustrated, angry and concerned about these developments regarding car parking. While the business community is working hard to sustain trade, despite the dire economic backdrop of lack of consumer confidence, the euro crisis, rising energy costs and inflation, we believe that DRD has tied one hand behind our backs.
“We are endeavouring to work with council and the Department of Social Development (DSD) to boost business in our town, and the forthcoming fashion show at the plaza, and the very welcome news of £150,000 of investment from DSD to spend on the town centre, will really benefit our traders.
“However, DRD’s decisions undermine these ventures and will have a detrimental effect on trade. On the one hand, we have one government department, the DSD, trying to help the town and, on the other hand, we have another department, the DRD, making things harder.”