This move will eventually enable enforcement patrols to monitor inappropriate parking and if required issue Parking Charge Notices after members of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Environmental Services Committee voted in favour of the recommendation.
The recommendation to redesignate the car park, resurface it and replace seven existing lighting columns and luminaires within the harbour area will come in at a total cost of £110,831.27.
A decision on proceeding with car park charges and a park and ride to the harbour won’t be made until a multi-agency meeting is held.
A report brought before the committee stated that; ‘The popularity of the site has risen significantly over the past few years which has significant footfall and traffic. This has additionally attracted many leisure pursuits’ providers given the footfall and the natural beauty and attributes of the immediate area.
‘The designation to a private lands car park shall contribute to the alleviation of this problem as trailers and other inappropriate parking to cater for these activities can be better controlled via enforcement.’
The report suggested that the introduction of car parking charges by means of pay and display machines would ease congestion and encourage a more frequent turnover of car parking spaces. The charging would also assist with the enforcement patrol cost with a projected income from the machines of £35,282.50.
Members were also informed that officers will assess the feasibility of a park and ride option to service the Ballintoy harbour car park and harbour area from the vicinity of the Ballintoy village area.
Chairman, UUP Councillor Darryl Wilson described it as a ‘very welcome report’ before DUP Councillor Adrian McQuillan raised concerns about the number of leisure providers who operate from the harbour and if the proposed enforcement would apply to them.
Director of Environmental Services, Aidan McPeake confirmed that it will allow council to have ‘better control’ over where they park.
He added: “If they are coming down with three and four trailers they won’t be able to fit into a normal car parking space. It allows us to control and manage who comes down there and who gets access to the car park.”
Councillor McQuillan queried if changing the operation of the car park would exacerbate an already chaotic situation with parking on Harbour Road.
Mr McPeake responded: “I don’t think it will make it any worse. There’s a body of work to do and the park and ride option is something we should be looking at in consideration of all of this.
“Members will remember there was some media attention because cars were parked in an unsafe manner along the road. There’s no double yellow lines along any of that section of road which is problematic. We have had some discussion with DfI Roads to see if double yellow lining the road would help and we are still having discussions.”
Councillor McQuillan proposed the recommendations were accepted in their entirety before Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Bateson brought forward an amendment.
Speaking on behalf of his colleague Councillor Cara McShane, he said: “Councillor McShane has been liaising with the council and various stakeholders for a considerable time and from her point of view, if we take action now we might be kicking the can down the road and putting the problem elsewhere.
“She thinks if we don’t have a joined up approach with all the stakeholders in play it might not work in its entirety.
“A multi-agency meeting should be set up at the earliest opportunity with the various bodies, especially with regards to the park and ride setup.”
“I’m going to make a proposal that we accept the elements of the recommendation which is the resurfacing, the redesignation of the car park and the lighting and then a multi agency meeting is held before proceeding with car park charges and the park and ride.”
SDLP Councillor Margaret Anne McKillop spoke of her concern that the issue would ‘be moved further up the road’ if charging is introduced, before asking the director if officers had engaged with any of the local landowners with regards to the park and ride.
Mr McPeake explained: “In summer 2019 there were considerable volumes of traffic. I met with one of the landowners and almost had a solution agreed that he would take on a proposal for doing it as a business himself. That didn’t come to fruition and we haven’t really taken it any further since then.
“The ideal scenario is that landowners put forward proposals themselves and run it as a business. If they don’t then we will have to step in and find a solution.
“The benefit of having a charged car park is that you may be able to offset some of the costs associated with it.”
Agreeing with the amendment, UUP Councillor Sandra Hunter commented: “I have no problem with the first three parts of the recommendations. I’m just wary of the park and ride, I would like to know if we have something put in place before we start to charge for the car park”.
Head of Infrastructure, John Richardson, informed the committee of plans to bring forward the costs to install an VMS system at Ballintoy Road to the next meeting.
“The VMS system is a verbal messaging sign which would be another part of our toolkit to manage the space,” he said. “It would list the number of car parking spaces there are and how many are free.”
Referring to calls for a multi-agency meeting, Mayor, UUP Councillor Richard Holmes said: “We tried the multi-agency approach out at the Dark Hedges and we are still trying to get something. Sometimes you have to sort it out and let others follow on when they can.”
Committee Chair, Councillor Wilson agreed adding: “There’s probably more chance of the Dark Hedges growing again than getting all the agencies around the table and agreeing.”
Members voted in favour of the proposal to progress the redesignation of the car park, the resurfacing and the lighting to stage 2 of the procurement gateway and grant permission for officers to carry out a detailed design, prepare tender documents and publicly advertise the works. A multi-agency meeting will be held before proceeding with car park charges and the park and ride.