Northern Irish business organisations have lashed out at proposals for additional on-street car parking charges. 

Almost 30 business groups from across the country have written to the Department of Regional Development regarding their plans to increase - or in some cases introduce - charges for parking in town centres. The DRD hopes to raise £37.5m over the next four years from these charges.

The campaign is being spearheaded by the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA). Chief executive Glyn Roberts said that the additional parking charges would be the death knell for independent retailers.

“The current system in the 30 towns where shoppers can park free for the first hour or two works to ensure a turnover in traffic and prevents people from parking all day,” said Roberts. “To charge for this could be the final nail in the coffin for our town centres.”

He added that shoppers would move away from the high street. “These charges will result in more shoppers being forced to go to out-of-town stores which offer free car parking,” he said. “In our view it is a tax on town centre shopping and must be rejected if our town centres and independent retail sector is to have any chance of surviving this recession.”