On Tuesday second generation Ballinrobe retailer Rob Murphy presented to the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, addressing the challenges town centres are facing due to restrictive parking regimes. Mr Murphy of Murphy’s Centra, Ballinrobe, spoke as part of a delegation from RGDATA, the representative association for independent family grocers.
Mr Murphy told the committee: “We are not here to moan and complain or look for a handout, all we are asking is to level the playing field so we can compete.
“In small communities, parking charges can act as a barrier to basic trade when a free alternative is available at such close quarters. They are a nuisance to the consumer who just needs to pick up the dry cleaning or collect the meat from the butcher on their way home from work.”
The Ballinrobe retailer spoke passionately about town centres being an essential part of the social fabric of Ireland. Customers who once gathered in conversation at the door of his family shop now rush off in fear of parking fines.
TD Dara Calleary proposed a visit to Ballinrobe, which was welcomed by Mr Murphy. Deputy Calleary said: “The joint committee is due to visit south Mayo at the end of April and should take the opportunity to see Ballinrobe for itself. The town centre has gone down very quickly since the multiple was built. It would be a good chance for the committee to see what happens in practice.”
RGDATA director general Tara Buckley told the committee: “Cash strapped local authorities are destroying the vitality of town centres in Ireland with extreme parking policies. High rates, fines, and the threat of clamping are driving people out of town centres. This has created a nightmare on every street that requires urgent action.”
RGDATA is seeking new guidelines to end the parking policy inconsistencies of local authorities and help combat the pull of shoppers to out of town retail centres with free parking. Initiatives advised include more graded parking fees and fines, more flexible payment mechanisms and innovative pricing structures, free parking days and set grace periods.