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‘Red coats’ come under fire as borough beats Belfast for off-street parking fines

Thursday, 27 April 2017

TRAFFIC attendants have been urged to take a common sense approach after it emerged more off-street parking tickets were issued in the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council area than in Belfast City last year.

The call has been made by DUP Alderman Freda Donnelly, who requested a breakdown of penalty charge notices from the Department for Infrastructure.

And, the Armagh representative's concerns come as a German tourist, who works as a tour guide in Ireland, contacted the Ulster Gazette to highlight her annoyance at being hit with a parking ticket during a recent visit to the city.

Karin Hardt - who is due to return to Armagh in June with a group from Germany - revealed her experience of the area has been "spoiled forever" and warned that if the city wants to encourage more visitors, "they better think about their existing policy".

She told the Gazette: "I like to prepare myself for new tours very thoroughly and so came from Dublin with my car (left-hand drive vehicle with german licence plate) and I parked it at the Mall.

"But when I came back to my car, I had a nice surprise - a parking violation ticket on the windshield about £45 when I pay within 14 days or £90 when I pay later.

"Is this a way to welcome people from foreign countries? A warning, okay. £10 maybe, but this is ridiculous. For me, it is obvious, that I was not aware that there was a limited parking time.

"There was no sign in the street, which I could have seen, because otherwise I would have parked somwhere else. There was no sign at the entrance of the town either, that would have told me that.

"So, I will come back to Armagh because I have to, but believe me, not because I want to. And of course, I will not recommend this town either, which is a pity, because it is a nice town. But now it is spoiled for me forever".

In 2016, tickets issued for on-street parking violations across the Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough area accounted for 7,440, of the overall Northern Ireland total of 84,876.

Of these, Armagh City accounted for 2,747, while neighbouring Portadown had 2,438, Lurgan 1,164 and Banbridge 964, while outlying towns and villages in Markethill, Keady, Dromore and Gilford had eight, six, 91 and five penalty notices issues respectively.

The number of tickets issued throughout last year was up 902 on the 2015 figures, which saw the issuing of 6,538 penalty notices.

Armagh City again ranked highest within the council area with 2,567, followed by Portadown on 2,006, Lurgan with 1,042 and Banbridge on 710.

Other areas such as Keady had 59, while Tandragee had nine, Markethill (five), Richhill (two), Gilford (four), Dromore (118) and Rathfriland (16).

In terms of off-street parking fines for 2016, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough ranked in second place with 4,441 tickets, ahead of Belfast City on 4,135 and behind Fermanagh and Omagh with 4,595.

Alderman Donnelly said whilst she always wants to see the council area achieve the best grades, this is one category where she "would prefer to see the council at the bottom of the league table".

"The tickets issued has seen an increase of 11 per cent from last year, a total income of £13million across Northern Ireland.

"As councillors and officers of the council, we collectively seek to promote the Borough, its traders, businesses and the tourism events and the local economy and actively showcase all that this great Borough has to offer our residents and visitors.

"It is extremely frustrating for visitors to come and experience a great day out, only to return to their vehicle and find a fixed penalty notice attached to the windscreen. It actually leaves the motorist reluctant to return to that town or city.

"I know that the traffic attendants have a job to carry out, but I feel that they can sometimes be very heavy handed, where possibly there could be a common sense approach taken, i.e someone parking slightly over the white line in a parking space because the vehicle beside them is too close.

"Surely as long as the vehicle isn't causing an obstruction, this should not receive a ticket, some people park in a loading bay, because they are purchasing items in a shop to be loaded into their vehicle.

"The result of so many tickets issued could possibly drive shoppers out of our towns and villages to out of town shopping centres where the parking is free. Whilst this will help those centres, it will decimate our high streets and villages to suffer needlessly," Alderman Donnelly added.

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