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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Patients, visitors & staff warned of possible disruption over free car parking at hospital sites

Antrim area hospital

Patients, visitors and staff are being warned of possible disruption at hospital sites from next week and are advised to leave extra time to get to appointments or when accessing hospital sites.

Free hospital parking provision had been passed by the Assembly in 2022, with car parking charges due to end on 12 May 2024.

However, it was subsequently agreed by the Executive last month that the planned introduction of free parking should be deferred for two years to allow for the necessary infrastructure to be implemented at hospital sites.

The legislation deferring this measure will not be in place by 12 May 2024, meaning there will be a limited period when car parking charges will not be in force.

The process of securing the two-year deferral legislation has required a series of stages including Executive discussion and agreement; scheduling of Assembly time for debate and votes; four separate Assembly readings of the legislation; granting of Royal Assent for the legislation.

The fourth and final reading in the Assembly was on 7 May and the Department remains hopeful that the Royal Assent process will conclude over the following weeks, meaning the required legislation should be in place by the end of May.

There are concerns that an increase in demand for parking during this limited free of charge period could lead to congestion at some hospital sites, potentially contributing to delayed or missed hospital appointments.

In order to minimise disruption and protect car parking capacity for those most in need, we are asking for cooperation and understanding from all car parking users. 

  • Patients and visitors are advised to allow extra time to get to appointments. 

  • Consideration should also be given to alternative travel arrangements, including the use of public transport if possible.

  • Staff are also being asked to maintain their normal parking arrangements in order to maintain capacity in hospital car parks for patients and their visitors.

  • To protect access to hospitals for legitimate users, there should be no unauthorised use of hospital car parking by the public.

Trusts are working to minimise the level of disruption and we apologise for any inconvenience caused and appreciate your patience.

The Department of Health and Trusts are currently working to implement a traffic management system to control parking, preserve blue light routes and protect designated routes to facilitate free car parking from May 2026.

It was originally anticipated that the traffic management system would be in place by now, however unforeseen delays in the procurement process and subsequent legal challenges meant this was unfortunately not possible.

Car parking permits for eligible healthcare staff will be provided free of charge throughout the two-year deferral period.


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