PAY parking is not an option in West Cork.
That was the adamant message from local councillors during a lengthy debate on a motion by Cllr James Kennedy (LP, North Cork), who was calling for ‘consistency’ across Cork County Council’s eight Municipal Districts.
According to Cllr Kennedy, more than €1.4m had been paid to a private parking operator in his Municipal District in Mallow, since 2014.
He said he believed that each district should ‘run and control’ its own pay parking operation.
Cllr Kennedy argued the need to bring the parking regime ‘back to Council’ so the funds could be used for the good of the community.
But West Cork councillors from Beara to Clonakilty – places where there are no fees, privately operated or otherwise – said a generalisation of the Council’s parking policy was not an option.
Their position was upheld by Niall Healy, the director of services for municipal district operations and rural development, when he confirmed: ‘The decision to introduce or make changes to pay parking arrangements is a reserved function of each individual municipal district.’
Mr Healy did, however, point out that a countywide parking management unit – based in County Hall – was established in April 2019 to manage and oversee parking management administration on a countywide basis.
He said the purpose of the unit is to ‘streamline back office administration and to ensure consistency of approach where possible and practicable,’ however, after lengthy consideration it was found that ‘achieving uniformity of fees and parking arrangements would not be achievable on a countywide basis.’
Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF) was of the opinion that ‘too much funding goes into parking enforcement,’ while Cllr Alan Coleman (Ind) pointed out that ‘pay parking is a hangover from the town councils.’
He said there is ‘no management of parking in Carrigaline’ and other towns – like Clonakilty, Bantry and Skibbereen – do not have pay parking, while people parking in Bandon and Kinsale are forced to pay.
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) was most adamant when he said: ‘In the West Cork Municipal District there won’t be an introduction of pay parking.’
He said the councillors had successfully resisted an attempt to impose a county-wide policy.
According to the Sinn Féin councillor, ‘our town centres are under enough pressure from outlying shopping centres – so pay parking won’t be coming into West Cork any time soon.’
Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) agreed saying: ‘We are struggling enough. You can forget pay parking in West Cork!’
Cllr Sean O’Donovan, a Fianna Fáil councillor in the Bandon-Kinsale Municipal District, said it is ‘unfair that some have and others don’t. People can travel 20 miles up the road and there are shopping centres with no pay parking. The system should be fair.’
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF), a former member of Skibbereen Town Council, said the decision was historic. ‘We had very good town councils who did not want pay parking and it will continue that way.
‘We don’t want to be running people out of town,’ said Cllr Carroll.
He also suggested that private pay parking operators in West Cork ‘could find themselves in the tide!’
Cllr Kevin Murphy, a Fine Gael member of the Bandon-Kinsale Municipal District, suggested: ‘We are subsiding those towns by employing a traffic warden.’
He added: ‘We should have an overall policy and the income from pay parking should be paid back in full to the towns and not be used to subsidise others.’