Council plays ‘tiddlywinks’ on Portlaoise’s free parking

Confusion reigned over the council’s free half hour parking scheme in Portlaoise at last week’s meeting of Portlaoise Town Council where the town’s Mayor Matthew Keegan called on the council to make the half hour free parking a permanent fixture.

Confusion reigned over the council’s free half hour parking scheme in Portlaoise at last week’s meeting of Portlaoise Town Council where the town’s Mayor Matthew Keegan called on the council to make the half hour free parking a permanent fixture.

Cllr Keegan also called for signs to inform the public of this concession, while Cllr Willie Aird accused County hall of “playing tiddlywinks” on the issue.

In a written reply to the meeting, Pat Delaney, of county hall’s roads section said that due to the number of queries the council had received, A4 sized notices have been put on all Pay and Display machines to notify the public of the 30 minute free parking.

Only the first period of 30 minutes on your first visit to town that day is free.

If you move your car before the 30 minutes is up, the free parking period ceases.

Drivers can only avail of one free parking period per day and if a member of the public wants to stay longer than the allowed free 30 minutes, they have to return to the car after this period and buy a parking ticket.

Also, if a member of the public purchases a ticket immediately they cannot avail of the free 30 minutes when their ticket expires.

Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said there was still a lot of confusion around the concession.

“The half hour is only once in a day,” she reiterated.

While, Cllr Willie Aird said the council were playing tiddlywinks with the free half hour.

“The carpark was half empty on Saturday afternoon. The wardens were brought in because the car park was full and people couldn’t get into shop.

“Downtown Portlaoise are trying to nurture people back into the town.

“Car parking was never meant to be a cash cow for the local authority, it was to ensure that we could provide parking spaces.”

Cllr Aird said people seldom have to drive around the council’s car parks now looking for spaces.

“This is either because people are afraid they will get a ticket or they are not shopping.

“Main Street is losing foot fall, the last thing we should do is give a ticket.

“We have to be supportive, I’ve said this to the County Manager. When the car parks fill up again, we can regulate them then.”

He said that a free half hour’s parking was no good.

“If a woman goes to get her hair done, she’s not going to come out halfway through to put a ticket on her car,” he said.

Cllr Caroline Dwane, agreed that the last three or four Saturdays had been particularly quiet.

She said the free half hour parking had been one of the best incentives, but several of her customers had received parking tickets if they went five minutes over their time.

“This happened to several customers, some of them hadn’t availed of the free half hour.

“Can the machines be programmed so people automatically get their free half hour,” she asked.

Cllr Rotimi Adebari said it wass clear to see how busy and packed the other side of town was where people didn’t have to pay for parking.

Cathaoirleach Matthew Keegan said the council should carry out a cost benefit analysis on Saturday parking in town.