Paying the price

by Victoria McMahon

The parking problems that plague residents of South Belfast may be coming to an end but residents will most likely have to pay out for the privilege of parking outside their own homes, it can be revealed.

Three problem-hit areas have already been earmarked for pilot parking schemes to be developed and due to commence the middle of this year.

The scheme will take a similar form to parking programmes currently running in England and Dublin, with ‘residents-only’ designated parking areas being put in place to clamp down on commuter parking, and the decriminalisation of parking offences making it possible for appointed civilians to enforce parking regulations in their own areas.

Minister of State for Northern Ireland John Spellar said: "Depending on the PSNI ability to enforce, it is hoped that three pilot schemes – Joy Street in the Markets, the area between Donegall Pass and Vernon Street and the Blythe Street area of Sandy Row – will be implemented by mid-2005, subject to the backing of local residents."

Sinn Fein’s MLA for South Belfast, Alex Maskey, has broadly welcomed the proposals but fears the finer details of the programme and its dependability on the necessary PSNI resources could halt its implementation.

He said: "I very much welcome this scheme, at least it’s a start that the government is taking this issue seriously.

"My worry is if it is subject to PSNI resources it may not go ahead.
"The subject of PSNI resourcing is the key problem and it could result back into the chicken and egg situation.

"No matter what your views are on policing they don’t need to be involved in issuing car-parking tickets.

"There are many streets where an ambulance won’t be able to get down if someone needed it immediately.

"That is just one of the worries residents are constantly flagging up about parking outside their own homes."

Mr Maskey said there has been a "mixed response" from residents about the strong possibility of being charged for parking outside their homes.

"With people already paying their road tax and their rates they feel it is their right to park outside their own houses.

"Commuter parking has spread like a virus, making it a serious inconvenience especially for young families and the elderly in these areas, so something just has to been done," said the South Belfast MLA.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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