Criticism after traffic wardens withdrawn for Limavady Royal Black parade
THE SDLP has accused the Department for Infrastructure of forcing ratepayers to subsidise car parking for a loyal order parade after it withdrew traffic wardens during a Royal Black march in Limavady.
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council - which has statutory responsibility for car parking fees - was not informed of the decision last Saturday.
However, the DUP appeared to indicate on social media that it negotiated the move and promised those taking part they would not receive a ticket.
The Royal Black Preceptory (RPB) parade on the last Saturday of August traditionally marks the end of the marching season.
In a post on social media on Saturday morning, Limavady DUP councillor Aaron Callan advised those travelling to the town that they would not have to pay for car parks in the Co Derry town.
He said: “Hope all those visiting Limavady have an enjoyable day for Black Saturday. Thanks to work done by Gregory Campbell MP and the DUP team the car parks in Limavady will be free. So come enjoy the day and don’t worry about getting a ticket.”
Mr Callan later removed the post.
Confirming that it was unaware of the move, a spokesman for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council said it "had no knowledge of such an arrangement being made for the car parks that it controls”.
It has now emerged the decision was taken by the Department for Infrastructure (DFI).
A spokeswoman said it followed advice from police.
“Local councils are responsible for deciding whether or not to suspend car parking fees (tariffs) in council off-street car parks. In this instance the car park tariffs were not suspended," she said.
"However, on advice from the PSNI, the department took the decision not to deploy traffic attendants to Limavady that day because it would have been difficult to access the off-street car parks as vehicle movements in the town were heavily restricted throughout the day due to the RBP parade and as such parking enforcement was not feasible.”
SDLP councillor John Deighan accused officials of taking the decision without due process.
"I would call on them to give a full account of how this decision was arrived at. The car parks in question are a vital revenue source for the council and the ratepayers of the borough should not be subsidising car parking for band parades.”
A spokeswoman for the DUP said the department was asked to adopt a "common sense" approach to parking during the parade "as would be the case with any event generating higher than usual volumes of traffic".
She added: "This would be looked upon by most reasonable people as a sensible approach to ensure there was no disruption or congestion to the town centre of Limavady."
While police confirmed they had discussions with DFI about traffic arrangements, the decision to deploy parking attendants lay with the department.
He said: "During those discussions, we suggested that it might be difficult to enforce parking penalties during the day as motorists could face unavoidable delays in leaving car parks along the procession route."