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Free parking for up to 30 minutes in town centres to be debated

Motorists should be allowed to park for free for up to 30 minutes, according to MLAs calling for changes to town centre policies in the lead up to Christmas.

There have also been calls for a significant cut to the level of on-street parking fines from the current £90.

Parking has always been a sensitive subject in Armagh, especially during the festive season.

However, in recent years, Armagh council paid Roads Service the parking charges for a select number of days in November and December to provide a boost for local businesses, shoppers and visitors to the city.

The scheme was also implemented by Craigavon and Banbridge Councils before the amalagamtion of the ABC Council.

These latest Northern Ireland-wide proposals will be discussed and debated in the Assembly today.

The motion was signed by former-minister Edwin Poots, and MLAs William Humphrey, George Robinson and Alex Easton.

Parking enforcement in Northern Ireland was privatised in 2006.

Initially, fines were levied at £60, with the option of a 50% reduction if the bill was paid within a fortnight.

However, in 2012, Stormont MLAs voted for the penalty to be increased to its current level of £90 – or £45 if it is settled within 14 days.

NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “It is absolutely vital that we make significant changes to car parking charges and fines to support the growth of our town centres and high streets”

“NIIRTA opposed the increase in car parking fines to £90 as it contributes to a fear factor for many shoppers coming into town centres and almost encourages them to shop out of town where there are no red coats and free car parking”

“We have also have concerns about the sheer volume of motorists that have been fined in Belfast after entering the bus lanes and the negative message it sends out to shoppers who use their cars.”

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