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Kennedy sets out plans for first year review of car parking charges

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy today presented his proposals to the committee for Regional Development on the Budget 2011 year one increases on car parking charges and the parking penalty charge.

The Minister also reaffirmed his pledge not to introduce 2011 budget plans to roll-out on-street parking charges to around 30 towns and cities across Northern Ireland.

Updating the Committee for Regional Development today the Minister said: The budget announced in March 2011 planned to increase penalty charges and off-street car park charges as well as introducing on-street parking charges in around 30 towns and cities across Northern Ireland.

Given the tough economic climate that town centre businesses are operating in, I have decided to hold the proposed year two review on car parking charges for two months. This is on top of my earlier decision not to roll-out on-street parking charges in towns. However, penalty charge notices will be increased from 60 to 90 and 25 off-street car parks that were part of the year one review will become charged at a maximum of 40p per hour. These increases will be effective from early June.

The savings delivery plans in the Departments March 2011 budget identified that in order to deliver the Departments front-line services, 30 million needed to be found over the budget period.

Danny Kennedy said: I welcome any comments the committee may wish to make on these proposals and I plan to explore other options with Executive colleagues to help town centres during this difficult economic trading period. However, the additional revenue needed to maintain front-line services, such as pothole repairs and street light maintenance, must be found to avoid further annual increases in car-parking charges over the lifetime of the budget.

The Minister continued: I have ensured that there is free off-street or on-street car parking in all towns across Northern Ireland. The off-street car parks may be a walk from the town centre but offer a free alternative to charged parking.

The list of 25 car parks where charging is being introduced was provided to the Assembly last September and these charges have been subject to a consultation process.

Speaking about the increases to penalty charge notices, (PCNs) the Minister said he hoped the increase in penalty charge notices, from 60 to 90, from early June 2012, would lead to a reduction in the number of illegally parked vehicles on the road. The Minister said: As well as being a safety issue for drivers and pedestrians, Illegal parking still plagues our towns and cities leading to driver frustration, congested roads and fewer parking spaces for shoppers.

Drivers have a responsibility to make sure they are familiar with the Highway Code and understand parking restrictions. We want drivers to park legally and consider other road users.

"Penalty Charge Notice's (PCN) are only issued to drivers who do not park legally. By observing double yellow lines, accessibility bays for Blue Badge holders, zig zags, bus lanes at peak times, urban clearways and all other parking restrictions drivers can avoid PCNs. When parking in a Roads Service car park or on-street, make sure the vehicle is parked wholly in the bay and not encroaching on another space.

Anyone who parks illegally risks receiving a penalty charge notice and will be liable for a fine of up to 90. By paying promptly within 14 days of getting the PCN, a 50% discount will apply reducing the fine to 45.

The original level of 60 fine for a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) was introduced when parking enforcement was decriminalised to the Department in 2006. There has been no increase since then.

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