Business community welcomes climbdown over Mid and East Antrim parking charges

Larne Business Forum has welcomed a decision by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to reverse charges at two car parks in the town.
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In a statement, the business forum has urged the council to implement this decision regarding Circular Road East and Exchange Road car parks “as soon as possible”.

The council says it will be “issuing information soon” about the return to free of charge use. Charges will also be dropped from two car parks at Mount Street and at Broughshane Street in Ballymena. No charges will be introduced at Castle Car Park in Carrickfergus.

Larne Business Forum highlighted what it claimed was “a wide range of damaging impacts flowing from the decision to introduce charges in these car parks”, last August, to councillors at a meeting in October.

Circular Road East Car Park. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting ServiceCircular Road East Car Park. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service
Circular Road East Car Park. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service

The forum said impacts included “reduced footfall, reduced revenue, less casual shopping and dwell time and a dramatic reduction in leisurely shopping”. “Significant inconvenience” to residents of Exchange Road was also noted.

Brian McRandal, chairman of the Larne Business Forum, said: “On behalf of the local business community, I very much welcome the decision by local councillors to reintroduce free car parking at Exchange Road and Circular Road East car parks. This is both a correct and a courageous decision.

Negative Impacts

“It can be difficult to recognise that you got something wrong and so our local councillors are to be commended for reflecting on the negative impacts this decision was having on the town and making this change. This decision also shows the benefits of the local business community acting collectively and engaging positively with our various elected representatives on a cross-party basis.”

Council says it will be 'issuing information soon' about the return to  free of charge use. Photo: Local Democracy Reporting ServiceCouncil says it will be 'issuing information soon' about the return to  free of charge use. Photo: Local Democracy Reporting Service
Council says it will be 'issuing information soon' about the return to free of charge use. Photo: Local Democracy Reporting Service

Brian has called for the reversal of charges to take place “as soon as possible”.

East Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA John Stewart said: “It’s a victory for common sense and a demonstration of people power.

“In particular, the huge response of people in Carrickfergus with literally hundreds of people writing in to protest against the proposal to turn the Castle car park into a pay and display facility has been extremely important.

“This has been combined with the review of the Larne car parks where Exchange Road and Circular Road East were clearly not being used, not raising revenue and putting more pressure on residential streets.”

Hotelier Kirsty Fallis, of Dobbins Inn, said: “This is very welcome news. It is great to see local council listening to their constituency. This would have affected many people’s daily costs and indeed as a local business in the town, I was concerned it would affect the ever-decreasing footfall.

“I think the council now need to promote the fact that our town offers free car parking. Encourage visitors to take advantage of this and enjoy a full day of shops and our amazing castle.”

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Knockagh DUP Councillor Marc Collins commented: “It’s been a long process but I’m delighted to say that following my proposal at council at the end of January, there will be no charges at Castle Car Park. "

Welcoming the decision too, East Antrim Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson stated: “I and my staff engaged extensively with constituents and local businesses to capture their views, which I presented to the MEA CEO when I met with her at the end of October last year.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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