Parking charges at tourist traps will bring chaos, Hillis warns

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Local residents in some of the north coast’s popular tourist areas will suffer if new plans to implement car parking charges are implements, it has been claimed.

New council plans to implement charges in Ballycastle, Portstewart, Portrush, Portballintrae and Ballintoy will cause havoc, local Ulster Unionist councillor Norman Hillis has claimed.

“I personally think that this a big mistake and I will be strongly opposing this if it comes before the full council,” he said.

“In Portrush, Portstewart and Ballycastle it will be the local residents who will suffer most even if the charges are seasonal.

“It will have a triple adverse effect. Firstly the people most affected will be our local residents.

“From past experience when Coleraine Borough Council one season decided (equally foolishly) to charge at the West Strand Car Park in Portrush, visitors parked everywhere except in West Strand car park causing a major headache to local residents who found they could not park near their own houses or found their entrances or garages were blocked.

“We already have problems especially in the Ramore Street, Princess Street areas and this will make matters even worse.

“This problem for local residents will be replicated in Ballycastle and Portstewart.

“Secondly it will be viewed by our visitors as a tourism tax and a tax on leisure.

“Our tourism department is busy trying to attract more visitors and this will be looked on as trying to get the last penny out of visitors.

“I would be very concerned that visitors might well decide to pass us by and visit other places where they might feel more welcome.

“Thirdly on economic grounds we need to keep our High streets alive and prospering in our tourist towns.

“For example, Portrush has recently had the closure of Nisa on the Main Street and I am told Ethersons family butchers is also going to relocate from the town centre in a few weeks.

“If businesses are already struggling why would the council exacerbate this problem by discouraging locals and visitors from going into our tourist towns?

“In Portballintrae If we charge for the car park this will again affect the fledgeling community store located there.

“We lament the lack of a store in Portballintrae and when we get one we unintentionally damage it.”

The North Antrim coast continues to see the numbers of visitors rise each year.

More than a million people visited the Giant’s Causeway in 2017.