Parking pains for Mayo towns as charges on the way

Mayo County Council hopes to raise an additional €503,000 from the implementation of parking charges in eight Mayo towns.

At a meeting of the Roads and Transportation Strategic Policy Committee (SPC ) of the local authority this week, director of services Tom Gilligan gave the members a presentation on the proposed changes to parking charges around the county.

A review of the parking charges across the county was included as part of the council's budget which was agreed last December, as the council needed to raise an extra €400,000 to balance the budget.

Ballyhaunis, Belmullet, Charlestown, Crossmolina, Foxford, Kiltimagh, Knock, and Swinford are all earmarked for the introduction of parking charges under the changes.

It was also proposed to bring in on street parking charges in the West Mayo Municipal District including Westport town, something that has been fiercely resisted up to this point by elected members from the town.

At the moment there are on-street and in car parking pay-and-display systems in the towns of Castlebar, Ballina, Claremorris, and Ballinrobe, while Westport has pay-and-display parking charges in the council owned car parks in the town, there is none for on street parking.

In his presentation Mr Gilligan said the council collected €1.9 million from the current parking charges around the county, and that an additional €503,000 could be raised through an increase in parking charges in towns already having systems in place, along with the introduction of parking charges in the proposed additional eight towns.

The biggest slice of the increase is expected to come from the west Mayo district, with an additional €321,000 coming from on street charges in Westport and Newport.

Last year both Castlebar and Ballina were by far the biggest contributors to the council's income from parking charges, with €737,715.50 coming from Castlebar and €701,858.10 from Ballina. Westport was the third highest contributor with €184,691.51 collected, even without on street charges, though this was considerably lower than the other two big towns in the county, Claremorris saw €156,655.44 taken in, with €76.246.58 coming from Ballinrobe.

The chairperson of the SPC, Westport based councillor Brendan Mulroy, said his position on this was clear, and that he would not be supporting parking charges on the streets of Westport. The Fianna Fáil councillor has been a long standing critic of the plan and said that this had been proposed before and the people of Westport stopped it happening.

Cllr Mulroy added that both Castlebar and Ballina were shopping towns, and Westport was a tourist town and a "golden nugget" that needed to be protected. He also said that he would not interfere in the business of other municipal districts and that councillors should not interfere in west Mayo.

However another member of the SPC, Eddie Maguire from Ballina, pointed out that Ballina was a major tourist town too and the gateway to north Mayo. He added that Ballina contributed more than €700,000 while Westport contributed €184,000.

Castlebar-based Fine Gael councillor Cyril Burke told the SPC that he had reservations about parking charges being introduced to some of the smaller towns such as Kiltimagh and Crossmolina, who he said were already struggling to survive without the implementation of parking charges. He added that it was unfair that Castlebar and Ballina had on-street parking charges while Westport did not.

Mr Gilligan was asked if the extra €400,000 needed to balance the budget would affect the General Municipal Allocation (GMA ) if it was not brought in from these charges. The GMA is used by councillors in the four different areas to fund various projects. He told councillors that savings would have to be found somewhere to make up the shortfall.

The report will be up for further discussion at the full meeting of the council which will take place next Monday, February 12.

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