Northern Ireland

Belfast City Council votes to end free Christmas parking

Parked cars
Image caption Translink claimed the free car parking scheme had caused congestion

A Belfast City Council committee has voted to end free car parking in the city centre in the run-up to Christmas.

Last year 1,500 spaces were provided free of charge at nighttimes and weekends, for shoppers.

However, after an intervention by Translink, who claimed it caused congestion, the initiative will not be offered this year.

Translink has offered to reduce fares and increase services.

The parking decision will go before the full council next month.

DUP councillor Tom Haire said he was in favour of keeping the scheme.

"I know there are people in country areas who would normally come into Belfast and they don't know where to go," he said.

"They're confused with the bus lanes to start with and people are staying away from it.

"We want to encourage them to come in and I would support free car parking coming up to Christmas."

However, PUP councillor John Kyle said Tuesday night's decision was the right one.

"I think it will result in more consumers coming into the city centre," he said.

"It will make public transport easier to use and I think it will increase the footfall without creating congestion and frustration in the city centre."

Gordon McElroy, president of Belfast's Chamber of Commerce, said the solution from Translink provided "additional services and reduced prices" and was a "win-win".

He said that the while the car parking scheme was "successful" it only applied to council-owned spaces, which make up 1,500 of the 28,000 parking spaces in Belfast.

"The important thing out of this story is to make sure people understand Belfast is a really good destination to come and shop," he added.

More on this story