Local authority officials will introduce paid parking in 30 towns in Co Cork despite promises from Environment Minister Phil Hogan that councillors would have the power to decide.
Councillors’ fears over parking charges increased yesterday when it emerged that while newly created municipal districts technically had the power to introduce or rescind paid parking, there was a catch.
Council chief executive Tim Lucey reported that while part of the legislation indicated they did have this power, a provision was that decisions had to be consistent “with any policy, strategy, programme, or plan” the local authority had approved.
A special council committee is studying pay parking across the county to make the scheme more uniform. A number of towns have parking charges, while some have limited hours of free parking, and others no parking restrictions.
Fianna Fáil councillor Frank O’Flynn said paid parking was a big problem for businesses in rural Ireland, adding there were anomalies in his electoral area, as charges applied in Fermoy while there were two hours free in Mitchelstown and Charleville.
Fianna Fáil councillor Pat Murphy said councillors in West Cork, where there is no paid parking within its electoral boundaries, “were taken aback” when it emerged they did not have the power to keep it that way.
Independent councillor Noel Collins vowed that Midleton would remain fee-free, while Fine Gael councillor Derry Canty said he and the business community in Ballincollig would not tolerate any meters or charges.
Fianna Fáil councillor Kevin O’Keeffe said that imposing pay parking in all towns would provide out-of-town shopping centres with an unfair advantage. “It’s nearly cheaper to drive to Mahon from Fermoy to do shopping,” he said.
Fianna Fáil councillor Christopher O’Sullivan slammed the legislation.
“Local government reform is a joke,” he said. “We have two-hour free parking in Clonakilty and it works.”
Meanwhile, the Mayor of County Cork, Fianna Fáil councillor Alan Coleman, said it seemed as if there was “some rowing back” on what powers the municipal districts actually had.
Midleton-based Fine Gael councillor Susan McCarthy maintained “pay parking kills business”.
She warned that, for every business closed, there was a negative knock-on effect on the amount of rates the council received.
However, Fine Gael councillor John A Collins said paid parking had to be uniform and that tickets should be issued which could be used anywhere in the county.
Mr Lucey, meanwhile, said until the council’s special committee had decided on overall pay-parking policy, municipal districts could not make any decision. He added that the money coming in from paid parking formed part of the county council’s overall budget.
Mr Lucey said he would do everything he could to speed up the council’s special committee’s deliberations on the matter.
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