FUMING motorists have accused over-zealous traffic wardens of killing trade in Dungannon’s town centre, and have vowed to take their business elsewhere.
The plight of visitors to the town who feel they have been wrongly fined for parking has been highlighted by UUP MLA Tom Elliott and Council Candidates Walter Cuddy and Winston Duff.
They revealed how one motorist from Stewartstown was slapped with a £90 parking ticket after being forced to park slightly over a white line in Ann Street car park because of broken glass in the parking bay.
In spite of providing photographs to prove his case, the driver lost his appeal, and has now sworn never to shop in Dungannon and to take other shoppers to out-of-town outlets.
Mr Elliott has warned motorists using the town’s parking bays to take a measuring tape with them.
“This is not an isolated incident as a member of my own staff was fined for similar offences”, he said.
“A little bit of common sense should prevail and at least a warning should be issued before imposing a hefty penalty, otherwise we will drive people away from out town centres and it seems that motorists are being treated as a soft touch for revenue.
“I wish to highlight this, so as no more motorists are faced with similar penalties. I would encourage motorists to use Park & Display and pay appropriate fees but you may also need to bring an inch tape to ensure you are not parked over the white lines.”
Councillor Cuddy believes the fact that Dungannon is built on a hill can be a disadvantage to shoppers looking for parking spaces.
“It’s difficult for people with disabilities or mobility needs. They need to be able to park close by. Their needs to be discretion in cases that aren’t clear-cut because it’s important to help keep the town and trade moving - these are tough economic times for everyone.”
He also claimed Dungannon has a disadvantage for parking when compared to other towns in Mid-Ulster.
“There are no traffic attendants in Coalisland and there is free parking in Cookstown. There has to be a level-playing field for everyone. From the town’s point of view, we need to look at the development of Castle Hill, which will hopefully increase the number of parking spaces and extend spaces in Thomas Street. Hopefully that will ease the problem. The Council have debated parking issues at length and we will look to work through this with the Roads Service.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Regional Development said: “Similar to all towns, parking restrictions in Dungannon are provided to help reduce traffic congestion, improve road safety and make roads more accessible for all road users.
“Parking restrictions in the town are enforced by Traffic Attendants who will only issue parking tickets to vehicles that are detected parked illegally. It is encouraging to note that the number of parking tickets issued in Dungannon has reduced from 2,166 in 2012 to 1,562 PCNs in 2013 which indicates that more motorists are parking properly in the town.
“Traffic Attendants perform a vital role in enforcing parking restrictions in town and cities across Northern Ireland to improve road safety and traffic progression and ensure a turnover of short stay parking space for shoppers and visitors.”