CAR parking tickets and charges are threatening to drive one of Portadown’s most successful businesses out of town.
In the week that Portadown was revealed as one of the most ticketed towns in the province, Simon Dougan, owner of The Yellow Door Restaurant in Woodhouse Street, said he was considering moving his business elsewhere.
Speaking to the Portadown Times on Wednesday, the restaurant owner revealed that he had received two tickets just that morning - for parking his delivery vehicles on the pavement at the bottom of Woodhouse Street.
Meanwhile, his neighbouring business owner, Thomas Vaughan, of Tom Moses Exclusive Interiors, was given two tickets at the weekend, both at times when he was doing work for customers.
Mr Dougan also has 16 other outstanding tickets which he is refusing to pay, most of which he received for parking his vans to unload them in Market Street.
And with the car park at Magowan Buildings converted just this week to a pay and display one, Mr Dougan calculates that it will cost him nearly £90 a week in parking charges.
He said, “We lost the loading bay in Woodhouse Street when the Public Realm Scheme was completed. How can I run my business if I have nowhere to park? Once I got a ticket when I was parked in Magowan because it was overlapping the space behind, so I moved it to the free car park at Magowan and they gave me a ticket there too for the same thing. You can’t win.
“I don’t mind paying a parking fine if I am in the wrong - and I have done in the past - but if you are trying to run a business, it’s different.
I am thinking seriously about leaving Portadown. I am not getting any help from the council either.
“The Mayor was meant to meet me twice to discuss these problems but he cancelled twice and I never heard from him again. When I opened in Lisburn (almost two years ago), they sent me a letter saying how delighted they were to have the business move there and then the phoned to ask if there was any help I needed.”
The Mayor, Alan Carson, said work commitments had unfortunately forced him to cancel the meetings but that it had always been the intention to reschedule them. “i have had to do the same with other local businesses. For instance I met Brian Irwin from High Street Mall five weeks ago but the original meeting with him had to be rescheduled. I am one of the only Mayors to take the initiative and meet local businesses and I try to do this while working full-time in my own job.
“I totally understand Mr Dougan’s frustration at the problems he is encountering and would be very happy to arrange another time to meet him to see if there is any way we can help, although it is the Department of Regional Development which makes the rules.”
Mr Dougan said he had already made a decision to move the bread and patisserie making part of the business out of Woodhouse Street and into an industrial unit and that this move was imminent.
Thomas Vaughan of Tom Moses Exclusive Interiors, said he was also totally frustrated by the difficulties of running a business and coping with the parking restrictions.
Last weekend he got two tickets, both related to his business. On Saturday morning, Mr Vaughan, who had been awarded the contract to refurbish Zio’s Restaurant in William Street, had parked in the loading bay beside the restaurant and was unloading some furniture.
He said, “I was gone six or seven minutes and when I got back, the traffic warden had just finished writing the ticket, She said she had timed me and I was longer than five minutes. I tried to explain but she gave me the ticket anyway. I was livid.”
The previous day, Mr Vaughan was also given a ticket for parking outside his business in Woodhouse Street. He said, “I had three curtain fittings to do so I was coming and going to the shop. I parked two or three times, but for just a short amount of time. Where else am I meant to park? There is no loading bay.”
He added, “Woodhouse Street is probably the busiest street in Portadown. It does great business and there is big footfall but I know that customers coming into my shop are watching like a hawk to make sure the traffic wardens aren’t about. Even if people could park for two hours it would make a big difference and businesses should be able to have some sort of identity card to enable them to park without fear of getting a ticket.”
In the province-wide review of car parking tickets published this week, Portadown was placed 12th out of 82 cities, towns and villages. The town had 2,506 tickets issued from January 1 to December 31 last year, with Belfast at the top on 36,280 tickets, followed by Londonderry on 11,843.
Portadown was closely followed by Armagh on 2,458 with Lurgan on 1,491, Markethill on 55, Moy 40, Richhill 10, Gilford 7 and Tandragee 2.
In a street by street breakdown of figures, the car park at Meadow Lane West received the most parking tickets in the town, clocking up 482, followed by Thomas Street on 442, Woodhouse Street on 218, Marley Street car park 165, Edward Street 136 and High Street 114.
In Portadown itself, there were 80 tickets issued in Bridge Street, 82 in West Street, 72 in Church Street, 37 in Jervis Street, 40 in Mandeville Street, 54 in Market Street and 76 in both William Street and Wilson Street.
The charging details were published in the investigative online news site ‘thedetail’ which obtained them under a Freedom of Information request.
It also revealed that the revenue raised by tickets was millions short of the amount paid to a private company to enforce parking restrictions.
However, the Department of Regional Development insists that the benefits of reduced congestion, access to town centres and improved road safety are vital to local economies.
Upper Bann MP David Simpson has expressed his concern that the economic and retail life of Portadown is being squeezed by car parking charges and tickets. He said, “Over 2,500 parking tickets were issued in Portadown in 2011, according to Department of Regional Development figures. These high figures reinforce the numerous concerns raised by traders to me that aggressive ?? I would appeal for more common sense to prevail.”