Dozens of parking tickets issued in Dungannon over the Christmas period, causing outrage among local motorists, have been cancelled.
Those caught were families and elderly people using the Castle Hill car park in the mistaken belief that it was free over the Christmas period like the other car parks in the town.
However, traffic wardens issued parking tickets to the unwitting motorists, reaping thousands of pounds in fixed penalty fines.
Anger at the move was expressed at Monday’s monthly meeting of Dungannon District Council.
SDLP Councillor Anthony McGonnell said he had been contacted by numerous constituents caught up in the confusion.
He called on Roads Service to scrap the fines as ‘a one-off’ and exonerate the motorists, many of whom came from rural areas.
His party colleague Jim Cavanagh agreed, warning that any goodwill built up over the period with shoppers and visitors to the town was being wiped away.
Mayor Roger Burton agreed and complained that a press statement had been released in his name announcing that all the car parks in the town were free over the Christmas period.
“The council gave a substantial amount of money to the DRD to pay for the free car parks. Ratepayers footed the bill for this, and they are entitled to free parking”, he said.
UUP Councillor Walter Cuddy said that unfortunately, the original decision to make Castle Hill car park free had been reversed due to the negative effect on local businesses.
However, Chief Executive Alan Burke explained that he had already written to Roads Service about the matter, and they had agreed to waive the charges. He added that he would ensure all affected drivers would be covered by the amnesty. He also revealed that council staff had been employed as ‘parking angels’ to advise motorists.