Chamber meets MLA on town issues

PARKING fees will have a detrimental effect on Banbridge town centre if they are introduced next month.

That was the message from members of the Chamber of Trade who met with Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson to discuss the matter last week.

Joe Quail joined with fellow traders Neil Shaw and Roisin McAleenan to bring forward the concerns of traders, customers and employees in the town to Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy’s party colleague Mrs Dobson.

The UUP member, who was recently appointed private secretary to the Minister, listened as the traders outlined the major concerns they have on a number of issues, not least proposals to introduce charges to three currently free car parks in the town.

Users of Downshire North, Townsend Street and Bridge Street East car parks could face charges of 40p an hour from the beginning of next month.

Speaking to Mrs Dobson, Chamber President Joe Quail said the charges are a major issue for many users of the town centre.

“We have one of the best towns in Northern Ireland and we need to make sure it’s easy for people to get into the centre and park, as well as for staff to get to their work.”

Last week an anonymous business owner in the town said the charges are an insult to all those who have tried to ensure the town centre remains a vibrant area in which to shop and work.

In a letter to the council the person said the town has undergone a welcome refurbishment in recent years, but the introduction of parking charges could drive people out of the centre of Banbridge, and have a negative effect on tourism in the area.

Last month’s announcement on parking charges also saw Minister Kennedy introduce a 50 per cent hike in parking fines from £60 to £90.

Mr Quail said that while people understand the reasoning behind the fees, they are sometimes over-used to the detriment of people trying to support their town centre.

“We made a request that the local Redcoats will take a more lenient approach in future,” said Mr Quail.

“People of course recognise the need for them but at the same time there are instances when a more commonsense approach could and should be used.”

Mrs Dobson ensured the Chamber she would raise the matters, which included a discussion on rates, with the Minister.

“We had a very constructive meeting with a broad range of issues being discussed which affect traders in Banbridge - not least the pressures which their businesses are coming under during the present economic situation,” said Mrs Dobson.

“Banbridge has always been an excellent town for small businesses to establish and expand. Banbridge has a proud history of small and medium-sized family-run businesses which make a significant contribution to our local economy.”