No more free parking on streets of tourist town Westport
Parking charges will be introduced to eight Mayo towns if Mayo County Council plans get the go ahead.
Ballyhaunis, Belmullet, Charlestown, Crossmolina, Foxford, Kiltimagh, Knock and Swinford currently have no parking charges for parking on streets or in council car parks. However, that will change if councillors approve plans from the council’s executive to raise an additional €400,000 through car-parking charges in order to balance the council’s budget for 2018.
The council also wants to see the introduction of on-street parking charges in Westport. At present, Castlebar, Ballina, Claremorris and Ballinrobe all have pay-and-display systems in council car parks and on street. While changing for parking in its four council-operated car parks Westport has yet to introduce on-street parking.
The matter came up for discussion at the meeting of the Roads and Transportation Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) meeting in Castlebar yesterday (Monday).
The Director of Services, Tom Gilligan told the meeting that the council collected €1.9 million in revenue from parking in 2017.
He said the council expects to bring in an additional €503,000 a year with these proposals, the majority of which (€321,000) is predicted to come from the West Mayo Municipal District. This anticipated revenue does not include parking-permit income or incomes from fines.
Pay to pray?
As part of its plans, the council is also proposing to increase current charges in Castlebar and Ballina.
Mr Gilligan argued that studies have shown that ‘availability of spaces is more important for customers than the cost of parking’. He also said that business owners in towns where there are no parking charges say that staff take up spaces that could be used by customers.
Mr Gilligan said the council examined census figures and any town with a population in excess of 1,000 has been included in the plans. Knock does not have that population, Mr Gilligan conceded, but said it was a place that attracted a lot of visitors.
It prompted Cllr Brendan Mulroy to quip ‘You’ve to pay to pray’.
Figures presented by Mr Gilligan showed that the biggest contribution to the council’s parking income was in Castlebar, with €737,715.50 for 2017.
Just behind was Ballina, with an income of €701,858.10. Both towns were substantially ahead of Westport, in third place. The income from Westport was €184,691.51.
Claremorris was next with an income of €156,655.44, while Ballinrobe brought in €76,246.58.
Also included was revenue earned from the Croagh Patrick car park in Murrisk – a total of €67,159.99.
Tom Gilligan gave a breakdown of the expected annual income from towns where car parking is proposed to be introduced for the first time: Belmullet, €44,180.51; Ballyhaunis, €25,581.49; Charlestown, €46,511.80; Crossmolina, €16,279.13; Foxford, €18,604.72; Kiltimagh, €55,814.16; Knock, €27,907.08; Swinford, €25,581.49.
By bringing in on-street parking in Westport, Mayo County Council anticipates an additional income of €210,631.20, based on a comparison per machine with Castlebar. The total anticipated income for Westport under the plans is €355,590, up from €144,959.
However, Westport-based Cllr Brendan Mulroy, Chairperson of the Roads SPC, is firmly against plans to introduce on-street car parking charges in Westport.
He said the council needed to ‘protect the golden nugget that is Westport’, and he disputed Mr Gilligan’s assertion that free parking on the street did not necessarily help businesses.
He said Castlebar and Ballina were ‘shopping towns’ while Westport was a tourism town and on street parking would be bad for tourism.
“I don’t interfere in any other municipal district so I would ask every other councillor to keep their hands off West Mayo,” he told the meeting.
However, SPC member Eddie Maguire, from Ballina, argued that Ballina is ‘a major tourism destination’ and pointing out that Ballina contributed €701,858.10, compared to Westport’s €184,691.51, said ‘there has to be a sense of fairness’.
Cllr Cyril Burke said having on-street parking charges in Ballina and Castlebar while having none in Westport was ‘very unfair’, adding that he also had concerns about smaller towns being hit with parking charges.
“I have reservations about towns like Crossmolina and Kiltimagh facing parking charges. You drive through some of these towns and there’s a lot of closed buildings,” he said.
Tom Gilligan added that if Mayo County Council did not find €400,000 from somewhere, they would not be able to balance the budget. If the plans for parking charges were not accepted, he said, savings would have to be made elsewhere, such as from councillors’ general maintenance allocations.
The matter is due to be discussed further at a full Mayo County Council meeting next Monday.