Free pay parking initiative in county towns from January

BY CAROLINE WHELAN

Shoppers visiting Galway towns are to get a reprieve from pay parking from early next year. This follows a motion passed by Galway County Council at this week’s meeting to allow two hours daily free parking in Loughrea, Ballinasloe, Tuam, Gort, Athenry, and Clifden.

This initiative is being piloted for six months to investigate if it will increase business in the towns in question - many of which are struggling due to low footfall. 

The council’s Transport Strategic Policy Committee had suggested that the two hours free parking be provided between 9am and 11am. However, it was argued by councillors that only around 10 per cent of business takes place before 11am and limiting the free parking to these times would be pointless. The council’s parking by-laws will have to be altered to allow the trial to get under way. There will also be a substantial reduction in the local authority’s revenue from pay parking, which is estimated to be around €900,000 per annum.

The motion for the two hour free parking period was submitted earlier this year by south Galway based Fianna Fáil representative Gerry Finnerty, who is happy it has got the go-ahead. Councillor Finnerty says businesses issued positive feedback following a council initiative last Christmas to offer free parking in the county’s towns for the month of December to boost the pre-Christmas trade.

“Business owners seemed happy with it last Christmas. Giving a long period of free parking just means shoppers won’t be as conscious of time when they come in to town. It is not so much the cost of parking that is prohibitive, it is the hassle of having change and only having limited time until you need to get back to your car. We need to be doing everything we can to increase the footfall in the towns - they are dying on their feet. This new scheme needs to be well promoted, it is no good having it in place and people not knowing about it.’’

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