Business

Airport bosses demand action against rogue parking firms

LOCKED OUT: Belfast International wants illegal car park operators to be shut down
Gary McDonald, Business Editor

BOSSES at Belfast International Airport want a lock and chain put across the five illegal car parks operating close to its site.

Managing director Graham Keddie says he's "fed-up" with the decades-long procrastination of officials to act to close down the rogue traders.

"There's a lot of foot-dragging going on that, frankly, I'm at a loss to understand, and it's time for illegal operators to be served with 'Stop Notices' as a matter of urgency," he said.

The International Airport depends on revenue from add-on activities like car parking to keep it profitable, and it has consistently fought to ensure firms operating outside the law are dealt with appropriately.

But the promised crackdown by law enforcement agencies on illegal car parks close to Belfast International - which is thought to have cost it close to £10 million - still hasn't materialised.

And yesterday Keddie cranked up the pressure on both the Department for Environment and the PSNI.

He said: "When planning and enforcement was a matter for the Environment Minister’s office, there was a chronic and persistent inability to deal with this issue which cost us millions of pounds in lost revenue and a significant number of jobs. It also meant the local council was denied considerable revenue in rates income.

"Planning and enforcement is now an issue for the new Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, and we welcome its eagerness to address matters of non-compliance, some of which have been ongoing since 2006.

"But why the long delay?"

Keddie added: "We pay our rates and taxes, yet others get away with operating without planning permission or paying appropriate rates, as well as transferring passengers to the airport in unlicensed vehicles.

"This behaviour places our legal and fully compliant operation at a total disadvantage, and it's something that would not be tolerated at any other UK airport.

"Over the years, there has been a chronic and persistent inability to apply the full rigour of the law. But surely the time has come when 'Stop Notices' should be served on illegal operators and tougher enforcement steps taken."

Mr Keddie insisted the airport was not afraid of rivals.

"But competition has to be on a level playing pitch. If we over-stepped the mark or flouted the law, the authorities would be quick to impose sanctions.

"So I have to ask why, in the past, they have been afraid to act in the case of operators who hold the law up to such ridicule?

"The new Antrim & Newtownabbey Council must show it no longer tolerates this dreadful abuse of the rules by taking immediate steps to stop these people now."

Operators such as Karl Airport Parking - which has space for 1,200 cars on a floodlit site at the Old Ballyrobin Road in Muckamore, just five minutes from the main Aldergrove terminal - have previously been served with notices to cease trading.

But it continues to trade, and yesterday was still taking phone and internet bookings for "Twelfth week" parking for £25, against £30.99 at Aldergrove.

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