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Call to 'scrap parking charges everywhere'

Thursday, 12 April 2018

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HE council may consider scrapping car park charges across the entire borough.
The move comes in the wake of a row over proposed charges at tourist hotspots.
Last month, councillors voted narrowly to overturn plans for pay and display systems in Portrush, Portstewart, Portballintrae, Ballintoy and Ballycastle.
The tariffs were expected to raise 400,000 and many of the elected members in favour saw the extra revenue as a vital boost to council coffers depleted by their decision to implement a zero per cent rates rise.
Among them is Causeway Coast and Glens Council's sole Conservative member.
David Harding who says he now backs moves to scrap charges across the board as a matter of principle
"The council decided it wanted to deliver a zero per cent rates increase and next year there will be an effort to deliver a rates reduction.
"But you can't argue for that and then turn down extra income of 400,000," he told the Chronicle.
Since striking the rate earlier this year, members were told savings of 1.8m  would be required to overcome rising costs and staff pay hikes.
David Harding was among those who expected car park revenue to help plug  the gap.
"If you vote for a zero rate you have to accept that some aspects of the  council's work can't be financed.
"You have to explain how you are going to cut costs or find money from other  sources. This was an obvious source.
"Councillors who argued for no increase in rates need to explain how they are going to fill the hole left by the decision not to introduce parking charges."
Since  losing the argument in the Chamber, Mr Harding says a number of like-minded colleagues are planing a notice of motion.
They are going to argue that if charges shouldn't apply in tourist areas, they shouldn't apply in any of the borough's town centre car parks.
"It's not that we are in favour of free parking. It's a point of principle," he said.
"If we aren't going to charge for parking in coastal resorts then we
shouldn't be charging in any of the council's car parks."
Meanwhile, Mr Harding also argues that charges could go a long way towards addressing long-term congestion issues around coastal resorts during busy weekends.
Over Easter there were times when traffic trying to enter Portrush was at a stand-still and backed up as a far as Whiterocks beach in one direction and Portstewart in the other.
The Council's plans to introduce charges were part of a wider parking
strategy  aimed at reducing congestion which, Mr Harding says, many councillors didn't even read.
"One of the reasons I've been so angered by this decision was that it was clear some councillors didn't read the report.
"The issue in Portrush especially, is that you can't get parked during
busy periods," said Mr Harding.
"This was a solution. The income generated by car parking charges would be reinvested in park and ride facilities and creating a 'smart parking strategy'.
"You either get told there are no parking spaces and use the park and ride, or you are directed to where spaces exist. And because there are charges, there would be a better chance of there being spaces available."

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