UUP throw a spanner in parking charge plan

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The introduction of car parking charges at north coast tourism hotspots this summer has been halted.

The Ulster Unionist group on Causeway Coast and Glens council has exercised its right to call-in the decision made by the full council at its monthly meeting last week.

It’s the first time they have exercised the right, which is essentially a veto which they are allowed to utilise if they feel a decision has been taken which will have ‘an adverse impact on the borough and its residents.

Council voted by 22 votes to 11 last week to introduce charges at popular tourist destinations in the borough including Portrush, Portballintrae, Portstewart, Ballintoy Harbour and Ballycastle where currently car parks operate free of charge.

An Ulster Unionist spokesman said: “Unfortunately last week a decision was taken to implement seasonal car parking charges in our top tourist destinations within our Borough, including Ballintoy Harbour, Ballycastle Marina, part of Portballintrae Beach Road, Portrush Dunluce Avenue, Portrush Landsdowne, Portrush East Strand, Portrush West Strand and Portstewart Convention.

“We feel that the potential impact on tourism and on local residents has not been explored in enough detail before taking such an important decision.

“We have no doubt that tourism will suffer, local residents will suffer due to displacement, and those who work in Portrush and indeed use the Portrush medical centre will be adversely affected.

“It is our hope that those who initially agreed to the decision will consider these factors and in turn support us in halting these charges until adequate groundwork and consultation are carried out.”

The new charges, which were to have been introduced this summer season, were backed by the SDLP, DUP and Sinn Fein.

Proponents of the scheme say it is unfair to charge for parking in towns like Coleraine in the borough, while other car parks remain free.

Critics say there will be a negative impact on residential parking as tourists look to avoid charges by parking on-street.

They say that residential-only parking schemes cannot be introduced in tandem with the new charges as that is a matter for the stalled Stormont Assembly.

Ulster Unionist Alderman Norman Hillis said it was up to people to lobby their councillors to object to the plans before it came back before council again.

“I have never had so many emails or phone calls about any issue as I have had over this,” he said.

“I think this is an opportunity for councillors to stop and have a rethink about how this will affect local residents, local businesses and what message we are sending out to tourists.” nist Alderman Norman Hillis said it was up to people to lobby their councillors to object to the plans before it came back before council again.

“I have never had so many emails or phone calls about any issue as I have had over this,” he said.

“I think this is an opportunity for councillor to stop and have a rethink about how this will affect local residents, local businesses and what message we are sending out to tourists.”