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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Swann raises concerns and questions over Council’s decision on car park charges in Ballymena

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

Car park in a bright sunny day

Robin Swann, the Ulster Unionist MLA for North Antrim, has queried the different approach taken by Mid and East Antrim Council in the introduction of car parking charges in car parks in Ballymena which were previously free of charge.


The concerns stem from feedback provided by a number of constituents, which highlight a perceived difference in the strategy employed for the introduction of car parking fees in Ballymena compared to Carrickfergus.



During the latest round of rate setting discussions, information indicates that carparking fees were to be imposed at the council-operated carparks situated at Carrick Castle, and at two car park in Ballymena - located at Broughshane Street and Mount Street.


However, there has been an apparent divergence in how the approach taken for Ballymena is in contrast to Carrickfergus.


For the Ballymena car parks, Mid and East Antrim Council ran a short 3 week consultation which started on the 25th of May, just as the dust was settling from the council election, while in contrast for car parks in Carrickfergus a 12 week consultation wasn’t launched until the 10th of August, four times longer and 10 weeks later.



Expressing his concerns, Robin Swann said:


“Ballymena, which is the retail jewel in the Borough's crown continues to contribute significantly to the rates base, yet in today’s economy the retail sector is as fragile as many others. Council cannot collect rates from businesses that are no longer there. 


"In Ballymena retailers already contribute to Ballymena BID in an effort to promote the town as a place to come, enjoy, spend time and, hopefully, spend money. It seems strange that council, a principle supporter of BID, would then take a decision which sends the message which says it's cheaper to leave as quickly as possible.”



The decision by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council to increase car parking charges in Ballymena is one which may have longer term consequences than intended, one which effects, shoppers, visitors and workers, who all contribute to Ballymena’s economy.


In light of these disparities, Robin Swann has asked for transparency and equity in the decision-making process concerning carparking charges. He emphasises that a comprehensive explanation for the differing strategies is imperative, ensuring a fair and just treatment for all parties involved no matter where they live or work across Mid and East Antrim Council area.


In response to Mr Swann's statement a spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said:

 

“As outlined to Council’s Elected Members previously, a statutory 21-day notification period was required for the change to tariffs at car parks which transferred to Council from the Department for Infrastructure when Northern Ireland Councils merged in 2015.  

 

“As also advised, the car park at Carrickfergus Castle was not transferred to Council by the Department for Infrastructure when Northern Ireland Councils merged. It is not currently specified in the legislation and therefore Council entered into a formal 12-week consultation process in line with prevailing guidance. 

 

“More information regarding the changes is available on Council’s website.”




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