Plans to introduce parking charges in 30 Northern Ireland towns have been placed under “review” by the new minister for regional development.

Following a meeting with the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA), minister Danny Kennedy said that he would examine the proposal.

“I am urgently reviewing the policy of introducing new on-street car parking charges in towns throughout Northern Ireland,” said Kennedy.

He said that he would have a final decision on the charges by July.

The charges were first proposed earlier this year by the Northern Ireland Assembly, but they were met with opposition from Northern Ireland retail groups including NIIRTA.

Chief executive Glyn Roberts said that the plan to introduce charges was “madness” and welcomed the minister’s willingness to review them.

“With large retailers offering free parking in out-of-town sites, there is a serious threat to town centres and local businesses,” said Roberts. “The possibility of receiving a £90 parking fine will do nothing to attract shoppers to our town centres. I hope that the Minister will come to a speedy decision on this vital issue for the future of our town centres.”

He added that these charges were not about creating turnover in small towns and improving, as touted by the government, but rather just to raise money.  “This parking proposal is just about raising £37m in revenue.”