BUSINESS leaders in Cork called last night for disc parking to be scrapped, for a 10% cut in commercial rates, and for a “free parking” initiative at weekends to boost city centre trade.
The Cork Business Association (CBA), which represents hundreds of city centre businesses, also called for a freeze on water and service charges as part of a raft of proposals designed to sustain and maintain jobs.
The proposals were outlined at the first meeting of its kind between the CBA and the city’s elected representatives last night. All 31 councillors were invited and just under half attended.
It is the first time such a meeting has been held and underlines how urgent it is that City Hall does something to help the city’s traders, CBA spokesman Donal Healy said.
The CBA told councillors they want a 10% reduction in rates for 2010, water and service charges to be maintained at current prices with the option of monthly payments, and a new sliding rates scale for business start-ups who would pay 50% in year one, 75% in year two, rising to 100% in year three.
But the politicians were told that parking is the main issue affecting CBA members and they were asked to press city officials to: phase out the “archaic” parking disc system; introduce pay and display parking meters throughout the city and divide the city into colour-coded traffic zones; cut the cost of parking by 10%; increase the on-street parking limit to three hours; and introduce a two-hour free parking initiative on Saturdays.
The CBA branded the city’s clamping and towing regime as “draconian”.
“Tow away was originally introduced to ensure free traffic movement, to keep road clear of obstructive parking,” Mr Healy said.
“Now it is target driven, incurring a €400,000 loss in revenue in 2008.
“The city is suffering from over regulation. 3,252 vehicles were towed in 2008. We do not see the need to remove these vehicles outside the city to the compound at the Mallow Road. In Dublin, these are relocated into side streets and clamped.”
He described the current on-street parking system as obsolete and urged councillors to push for the introduction of the best elements of Dublin’s parking controls regime, which were studied by CBA officers during a recent visit to the capital.
Councillors agreed that parking controls could be eased, but said a parking meter system would be too expensive to introduce city-wide.
Fine Gael’s Jim Corr also said a 10% reduction in rates – the equivalent is cutting the city’s budget by over €5 million – is extremely unlikely.
Labour TD Ciarán Lynch described the CBA’s call for a 10% rates cut as ambitious and said they would be lucky if the levels were maintained this December.
But he said the city’s traffic and parking controls need to be overhauled.
He called on the city manager to cut the price of parking in the publicly owned multi-storey car parks, for a waiver on commercial rates to incentivise new business and for a downward review of leases.
The CBA sought councillors’ support for the proposals and said if implemented, they could help traders capitalise on what will be a crucial Christmas trading period.
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