Mayor uses casting vote to rubber stamp Manager’s proposal
Ballina Town Council have agreed to increase the cost of long stay car parking in certain car parks in the town with the hope of freeing up spaces for shoppers in the town.
The recommendations approved by the council included increasing the cost of long stay car parking in centrally located car parks such as Market Square to €60 per month while peripheral car parks such as Barrett Street will cost €40 per month.
The decision was not unanimous however, with the three Fine Gael councillors arguing that the all of the car parks except for Market Square should be opened up for long stay parking with the current price remaining as it is.
The proposal was forwarded by Cllr Mark Winters who argued against increasing the price of car parking and said the council should wait and see how his proposal works. His proposal was split with three against and three in favour but Mayor Cllr Willie Nolan used his casting vote against the proposal.
Town Manager, Paul Benson explained that changing the bye-laws for car parks was designed to free up car parking in the town centre and make Ballina an attractive place for people to shop and do business. He explained that at the moment town centre car parks were being used by long stay merit holders which made it difficult for shoppers to find space.
“I must reiterate that this is not about increasing revenue, it is about managing more effectively and efficiently our car parks in the town. Long stay car parkers will park in the outer car parks and walk the four minutes to work in town and leave the town centre free for shoppers and business,” he said.
Mr Benson said that ‘regrettably’ there was no submissions to the bye-laws when they were advertised and he was recommending allowing long stay car parking in all of the car parks but drivers had to ‘pay for the convenience’ of parking in the town centre.
The fees he was recommending were €25 per month for parking in Barrett Street and Bachelors Walk car parks; €40 for Humbert Street; €50 for Teeling Street and Emmet Street and €60 for Market Square. He said the fee was based on a six day week and equated to €1 per day for parking in Barrett Street.
Cllr Mark Winters told the meeting that he did not believe there was a scarcity of short term parking in the town centre but Mr Benson was adamant there was. He said the average occupancy of the Teeling Street car park was 85 per cent while Humbert Street was at 34 per cent. He added that over 100 long term car parks were sold for Teeling Street while under 50 were sold for Emmet Street and Humbert Street was in the ‘low twenties’.
Cllr Winters said he felt it was ‘crazy’ to ask people to pay extra money for parking but Mr Benson said they were not asking them to pay but to use the cheaper car parks.
“If they are prepared to walk an extra three or four minutes they will be only be asked to pay extra for Teeling Street, Emmet Street and Market Square,” he said.
“Long term users are there on Saturdays and shoppers are going round and round, I see it myself.”
Mr Benson explained there was no incentive at the moment for long term stay permit holders to park in the outer car parks.
“The reality is that 90 to 100 use Teeling Street while only 20 use Humbert Street for the same price. Why park on Humbert Street if there was no financial advantage, Why do it? I’d do it myself,” he said.
Cllr Johnny O’Malley and Cllr Peter Clarke supported Mr Benson’s proposal with Cllr Clarke agreeing that €25 was ‘great great value for money’. Cllr O’Malley said they needed Ballina to be a friendly place for shoppers who should not be spending time in their cars looking for spaces.
Mayor of Ballina, Cllr Willie Nolan asked if a balance could be struck and proposed a reduction in the rates. Mr Benson said that current price of €20 has been the same since 2001 and 20 per cent of the rate went on VAT.
However after Cllr Winters proposal was defended it was agreed to reduce the monthly rates to €20 per month for Barrett Street and Bachelors Walk; €35 for Humbert Street; €45 for Emmet Street and Teeling Street and €60 for Market Square.