Lyster Square, Portlaoise, where on average three parking fines a day are issued.
Free parking in Portlaoise is set to go up from 30 to 45 minutes, as local traders feel this will make for a better circulation of shoppers within the environs of the town.
At today’s (Wednesday, October 18) Portlaoise Municipal District meeting, director of services, Mr Kieran Kehoe said that the local traders felt that 45 minutes was adequate and were the council to raise this to one hour a shortfall in revenue of €100,000 would have to be found elsewhere.
Cllr Mary Sweeney said that some traders didn’t want an hour’s free parking as there was a better circulation of traffic and shoppers with the 45-minute limit instead.
However, Cllr Willie Aird asked would 45 minutes be the complete cut-off mark, saying that he didn’t think that was right.
“If someone gets delayed at 46 minutes, will they be fined?,” he asked.
Cllr Aird went on to say that the local authority was “doing very well” financially as lots of people don’t avail of the free parking as they fear being fined and so pay the money upfront.
“If we’re not in a position to get some flexibility for people who, through no fault of their own, get delayed, that’s despicable,” said Cllr Aird.
Cllr Noel Tuohy said that the traffic wardens presently give about ten minutes’ grace, so the council was giving people nothing if it raised the free parking but insisted on the cut-off point being 45 minutes.
Cllr Jerry Lodge said that he had never encountered anyone who was prosecuted for being a minute over the 30 minutes’ free parking.
Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley said she knew of loads of people who go and put in money when it comes to the 30-minute mark and they will now be getting the benefit of 45 minutes.
Cllr Catherine Fitzgerald said that there are always people who pay for parking anyway, with the older generation not inclined to run out and put in the money at the 30-minute mark and so they pay €2 at the start. She said that younger people may have parking apps on their phone with which they can pay, but not so older people.
“My gut feeling is that older people are paying for most of the parking,” she said. “Anyone who pays €1 or €2 should be given something extra.”
Mr Kehoe said that the traffic wardens are extremely flexible and reasonable. He said the council was simply asking people to put a ticket on their car within 45 minutes and the traffic wardens will still apply some discretion.
He said with 200 parking spaces in Lyster Square, on average no more than three fines per day are issued.
Cllr Lodge suggested that the council review the matter after six months and if the initiative was being unfairly applied the council could change it.