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On-street parking charges are off the wall

De Facto

Locals are being asked to pay for the council’s non-enforcement of traffic bylaws

DeFacto
Liamy MacNally

Residents (mainly elderly) of St Mary’s Crescent will have to battle for a parking space outside their homes with people who pay for parking under plans to introduce on-street parking charges. There will be no delineation between residents’ spaces and ‘metered’ parking spaces. A Residents’ Permit will only entitle you to enter the fray.
Residents in John’s Row, Barrack Hill, Peter Street, Tober Hill and the town centre face the same idiocy.
This is, at best, thoughtless planning and, at worst, insulting for Westport residents. In either case, it raises the core question of the competence of those charged with presenting such plans. If that’s not enough, note the proposed short-term parking in front of the entrance to Holy Trinity Church, right across the gates!
Westport people are proud of their town, its heritage, beauty and culture. Over the years Westport Town Council and Mayo County Council have played significant parts in the positive development of the town. The council has also done its share of damage – breaking the street line in two locations on James Street and removing kerbstones and (cart) tracks.
The current proposals will involve the erection of dastardly parking meters throughout the town. This form of ‘street furniture’ (to use a favoured council term) is unwanted, unneeded and unsightly. What about maintaining a proper visual perspective of a heritage town?
Council officials can sit back and observe while residents and businesspeople debate these proposed parking charges. These officials do so knowing that their own cars are secure in a FREE council car park, paid for by the taxpayer.
The council claims that it is €400,000 short of its required annual budget. Councillors have suggested that the current charges in the designated car parks should be raised from 70 cent to €1 per hour.  This would generate €100,000 and be the West Area contribution to the countywide shortfall.
Why is there a budget shortage? Property tax is given to councils, and we all pay direct and indirect taxes to national government for local distribution. It is past time for councillors from the two main parties (who are busy scratching each other’s backs in government) to put pressure on national politicians to adequately fund local authorities.
Where are the voices of the town-council abolitionists now? Town councils afforded local people to vote for locals to represent them, before being wiped out by Phil Hogan.
What riles many people about the parking charges plan is that it seems so disingenuous. For years the council has been on about solving parking problems and traffic flow in Westport. Consultants have been paid big bucks, councillors and officials have gone on numerous overseas ‘study trips’ and yet it all boils down to this badly thought out plan. Traffic problems still persist!
Westport is noted for its community spirit. It belongs to the people, not the council. It is a local town that accommodates tourists, not a tourist town that accommodates locals. Westport people have always had a sense of pride in the local community. Now people from outside, via the council, want to impose their will.
The only people who do anything to alleviate traffic issues are the two traffic wardens. Their manner and common-sense approach have ensured some semblance of normality around the town. The council has never been serious about resolving the traffic issues, especially when you note that current council traffic bylaws do not even support the successful prosecution of traffic fines.
Resolving the legal mess and supporting the traffic wardens to enforce the existing traffic regulations would remove most of the problems. The Chamber of Commerce also has a lead part in ensuring the success of implementing existing regulations. The only consolation is that the recent tar-toppings on Bridge Street and Shop Street will put an end to any hopes of hang-gliding from the ‘high’ footpaths!
The current proposals are causing angst and upset, especially to many older people; daily Mass goers will even have to pay €1 to attend church. This is a crude money-raising venture that will not deal with traffic problems. It is shameful that the proposals were ever allowed this far.

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