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Mall dentist’s call to increase parking from one hour to two extracts ‘very disappointing’ response

'It is at the point where it has the potential to cause real and lasting damage to my business and distress for our patients'

There will be no move to extend parking times on the Mall in Armagh from one hour to two despite repeated calls by businesses and local politicians.

And one local dentist has warned that requests – which he says have been dismissed out of hand – will have a detrimental impact on his own practice and others in the area.

Mel Currie, of Currie and Gribben Dental Practice at Mall East, had previously told Armagh I how damaging the resumption of parking enforcement would be in that locality.

He had said his own practice was adapting to necessary guidelines and this included having patients wait in their vehicles to be called in. There was also the likelihood that patients would have more dental work conducted under one appointment to try, where possible, to lessen the number of visits which they may have to make.

This, Mr Currie had said, would mean it was highly improbable that those attending the practice would be able to attend and leave within the permitted parking timeframe and therefore would risking falling foul of parking attendants operating to the ‘letter of the law’ in the area.

Already his forecast has been proved true, as the first of his patients has reported being ticketed for being over the hour allowed.

Mr Currie had written to the Department of Infrastructure to outline his concerns and highlight the benefits and need for a two hour waiting time extension at Mall East.

But the dentist’s correspondence has extracted a far from pleasing response.

In a letter in response from the acting divisional roads manager for the Southern Area, it is confirmed there are “no plans” to change the current one hour only parking at Mall East.

This is despite previous assurances given to local politicians that such a move was on the cards.

The letter from Southern Division Roads said: “The recent Easing of COVID-19 restrictions is encouraging for both businesses and the general public alike and as a result, the traffic figures recorded by the department show that we are seeing an increased number of vehicles on our roads.

“However, as traffic volumes have increased, it was necessary for the department to again re-introduce parking restrictions to ensure best use of our urban areas. In urban streets where on street parking demand is greatest shorter time limits are necessary to create the optimum turnover of spaces for the benefit of the local businesses.

“A one hour limit is generally applied to the busiest commercial areas where demand for on street parking is greatest.

“For that reason and to assist those needing to park for a longer period, a two hour limit is applied in areas that are further away from the main commercial area, or in less busy commercial areas.

“This limit is primarily intended to deter longer stay/commuter parking in the peripheral areas of cities and towns.

“Armagh has a busy city centre with a high demand for on street parking therefore one hour waiting restrictions are appropriate. Another benefit is for blue badge holders who may find the existing accessible bays occupied but can still park in the on-street parking spaces. A one hour restriction will provide more opportunities for them to find a parking space.

“There are also council off-street parks to facilitate those wishing to stay longer than one hour so there are options for parking that should suit both the needs of both local businesses and their customers.”

Mr Currie is informed that, in terms of the Mall, there is “a range of measures within close vicinity of your premises with a one hour waiting restriction on part of one side with the remainder having no restrictions”.

And the letter adds: “College Hill, situated very close by, has a two hour restriction which may better suit your clients.

“In line with the application of on-street parking restrictions across Northern Ireland, and for the reasons outlined above, the department has no plans to change the permitted parking from one hour to two hours in busy commercial areas.”

Mr Currie said he was “very disappointed” at the department’s stance and refusal to adapt to help those businesses and professionals working and trading in that area.

He told Armagh I : “We had a patient who had a ticket last week.

“It is at the point where it has the potential to cause real and lasting damage to my business and distress for our patients.”

Armagh Sinn Fein Councillor Garath Keating has described the response from the Department as “particularly bizarre and disappointing given that the matter had pretty much been resolved several months ago”.

He added: “In November 2019, just eight months ago, DFI corresponded with Council outlining its proposal, following surveys and assessments of the area, to extend parking in the area to two hours.

“It is a disappointing deviation in position by the department and I will be asking them to reconsider this situation and encouraging them to implement the previously advised amendments communicated in November 2019.”

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