News that a plan to introduce on-street car parking charges in Ballymoney and Ballycastle is being scrapped has been greeted with relief by the local business community.
Earlier this year, the Department of Regional Development (DRD) announced a scheme to bring in the charges at 30 locations including Londonderry, Coleraine, Ballymoney, Ballycastle and Ballymena.
However, DRD minister Danny Kennedy has confirmed he will not be proceeding with the plan originally put forward by his predecessor Conor Murphy. At present only Belfast, Lisburn and Newry charge for on-street parking.
Mr Kennedy said that given the tough economic climate town centre businesses were operating in, he did not believe the time was right.
“I have consulted widely and have heard a united voice in opposition to these proposals,” he said.
Traders’ representative Glyn Roberts said they were “absolutely delighted” with the decision.
Mayor of Ballymoney Cllr Ian Stevenson said: “I welcome and am fully supportive of the decision to at least postpone the introduction of on street car parking charges. I have been approached by some traders within the town who also expressed strong concern in regards to this matter.
“Throughout Northern Ireland, town centre retailers, particularly independent retailers, are finding it difficult to survive in this harsh economic climate. Anything therefore which helps to ease, or at least doesn’t add to, an ever increasing burden for local businesses and helps in the battle to keep them afloat and maintain much needed employment is to be welcomed. This decision is obviously also of benefit to local people who find it hard enough to keep afloat given the high fuel prices, unemployment issues, lack of highly paid jobs etc. and have enough financial pressures to keep them going.
“From an economic point of view, there is no doubt that the dual approach of making savings and generating income are options which are both being used to help meet the financial demands upon Stormont. The key in implementing these ought to be to ensure, as much as possible, that the decisions made encourage enterprise and help those trying to make the economy grow.
“I would encourage local people to continue to support local shops and businesses as much as possible, as indeed I have encouraged visitors to stay and shop in Ballymoney, and have met those who go out of their way to shop in the borough.
“I thank the minister for making this good decision, as indeed I would give credit to any minister who makes good decisions for the benefit of this borough. I hope this decision will be one which is never reversed and that it will not result in negative repercussions elsewhere.”
Ballymoney Chamber President, Winnie Mellet agreed stating: “I welcome this change of heart by the Minister which is a relief to businesses and shoppers in our town. I call on the Assembly to do all they can to support the business sector through this particularly difficult economic climate when many businesses are struggling and there has been closures across towns in Northern Ireland.”
Ballymoney Council Development Chair, John Finlay added: “I welcome the Minister’s decision as there is no doubt that such a scheme would have had a greater impact on smaller towns, such as Ballymoney, particularly at this difficult economic time.”