A week’s free parking in council-owned car parks in Athlone has been approved for Christmas week, December 17 to 24.
Fianna Fáil councillor Aengus O’Rourke originally called for the initiative to be introduced at September’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District.
Speaking at October’s meeting on Monday this week, Cllr O’Rourke said that after all the negative publicity surrounding Athlone last Christmas due to the flooding crisis the council “owe it” to the business community to make every effort to make this year’s holiday a far more successful one. He said Athlone is competing with places like Roscommon and Tullamore who provide free parking at all times.
Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan said Athlone is in competition with places as far afield as the Lifffey Valley centre when it comes to Christmas shopping. He warned that failing to attract business to the town during this year’s holiday could mean the closure of a couple of shops this coming January, something that would hurt the town and council budget far worse than a free week’s parking ever could. He added that shoppers “want to get in and out” quickly when doing their shopping, and that the provision of parking space is key to that.
Independent councillor Michael O’Brien said it is time “to give something back” to the local business community. He said the cost of the scheme amounts to nothing when the amount of potential revenue attracted to the town is considered, and called on the council to push ahead with the plan.
Fine Gael’s Tom Farrell questioned whether free parking days should be scheduled for quieter shopping periods in the year. He said people travelled to Athlone for the “quality of the shopping” and not for free parking, and urged careful consideration before any decision is made.
The news that the initiative has received approval was announced by Cllr O’Rourke yesterday morning (Wednesday ) via his Facebook page. “I am delighted that my proposal to provide free parking Christmas week has finally been agreed at council level. So, from December 17 to 24 you can park for free in council-owned car parks in Athlone. Happy Christmas folks,” it read.