Mid and East Antrim Borough Council car parking charges deferred

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Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been considering charging for town centre car parks which are free to use at present.

The levy was discussed behind closed doors at a meeting of the council’s Policy and Resources Committee last month.

The borough council currently maintains six car parks.

Minutes stated that Knockagh DUP Councillor Peter Johnston queried the legal restraints of implementing parking charges at Carrickfergus Castle.

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Circular Road West Car Park, LarneCircular Road West Car Park, Larne
Circular Road West Car Park, Larne

Carrickfergus Alliance Councillor Lauren Gray asked officers to investigate options regarding motorists who use town centre car parks during working hours.

Larne Lough DUP Councillor Gregg McKeen proposed that any new car park charges be deferred due to the “financial hardship being faced by many at this time”.

His proposal was seconded by Cllr Gray and was agreed after 12 councillors voted in favour with five against.

Deputy Mayor Ballymena TUV Councillor Matthew Armstrong said that he was against the decision. Previously, he has called for parking fees across the borough to be examined to “establish consistency”.

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Castle Car Park, CarrickfergusCastle Car Park, Carrickfergus
Castle Car Park, Carrickfergus

The TUV has described free parking as “a drain on the ratepayer”.

Party colleague Councillor Brian Collins, a Braid representative, asked for a report to be brought before members early in 2022 to enable them to “give their views in respect of uniformity of the pricing structure of carparks”.

Councillors were informed when the issue was raised before the first lockdown in 2020 by Bannside TUV Councillor Timothy Gaston that it would take at least a year to get payment systems operational.

Carrickfergus DUP Alderman Billy Ashe said at the time his party does not believe the introduction of car park charges will “bring in the revenue that other councillors think it will. It is not for us”.

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Meanwhile, the local authority has decided against leasing Circular Road West carpark in Larne town centre which could have realised rent of £15,000 per annum.  It is currently a ‘pay and display’ site.

A 1.27 acre council-owned lorry carpark owned also at Circular Road, was on the market for £350,000 before it was sold by the local authority to fast food giant McDonald’s.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter