COUNCIL officials have warned that the issuing of parking permits could undermine the business viability of several West Cork towns.
For months, councillors have been complaining about elderly residents receiving fines from Council-employed traffic wardens for exceeding the two-hour parking limits outside their doors.
But at a meeting of the West Cork Municipal District on Monday, a senior executive officer MacDara O h-Icí quoted figures from the 2016 Census to illustrate just how many parking permits might be required if such a scheme were to be introduced.
Mr O h-Icí acknowledged that the figures were not ‘a mirror fit’ of the areas or the issues raised by Cllrs Danny Collins (Ind), Joe Carroll (FF), Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) and Cllr Karen Coakley (FG).
However, he said they showed what could happen if parking permits were introduced.
In Bantry town centre, for example, he said there are 238 households with 191 cars. While, in Dunmanway, there are 276 households with 234 cars.
In Skibbereen, there are 284 households with 169 cars, and, in Schull, there are 107 households with 91 cars.
Mr O h-Icí said there would be nothing stopping householders with cars from applying for a permit.
Alternatively, he said permits could be dispensed if pay parking were to be introduced in the West Cork Municipal District area.
In simple terms, if the councillors bring in permits, Mr O h-Icí said residents could take up the spaces that the local business communities would like to see occupied by customers.
He said the current two-hour parking limit applies to everyone, right across the board.
But there are no parking restrictions after 6pm, which is outside of normal business hours.
Furthermore, he said the Council has provided plenty of public car parks so that people have a place where they can park without incurring charges or fines.
Cllr Danny Collins insisted the Council was wilfully misunderstanding the concerns raised on behalf of elderly residents who have been parking outside their own doors for years. He added that it is only in the last year or two this accepted practice has been challenged.
As a result, he said they now either have to pay fines or fight the fee in court.
Cllr Joe Carroll said he is aware of one resident in Skibbereen who sought to challenge his case in court.
But the Council’s legal team adjourned the case forcing the man to take a second, costly day off work.
Cllr Carroll concurred by telling the meeting: ‘There is a heavy-handed approach to some residents in Skibbereen in recent times.’