ENNIS Town Council will have to seriously consider increasing parking rates in the town, as income from parking fees and fines has dropped and new rules regarding VAT on parking have increased their liability.
In a report on parking arrangements in Ennis by town manager Ger Dollard, the council confirmed it will need to reduce expenditure elsewhere or generate additional income from car-parking fees or other areas to meet this deficit.
“Income from parking fees and traffic-fine income have shown a significant drop in 2010. Income in real terms also dropped in 2009. A serious financial concern for consideration is the new rules regarding VAT treatment of local authority off-street car-parking income. The effect of the new regulations has resulted in Ennis Town Council returning VAT at the rate of 21% on off-street car-parking and parking income collected from July 1, 2010. In a full year, this VAT liability is estimated at €150,000,” the town manager explained.
“This combined with the general reduction evident in car-parking and traffic-fine income will require the council to seriously consider how such funding gaps can be addressed in Budget 2011. In simple terms, the council will need to reduce expenditure elsewhere or generate additional income from car-parking fees or other areas. In the overall financial circumstances pertaining to Budget 2011, the room to manoeuvre is severely limited,” he said.
Mr Dollard also stated solutions to these issues need to be put in place and that formal proposals will be presented to councillors as part of Budget 2011 on December 20 and be included as proposed changes.
The report identified a number of parking issues that need to be addressed, namely the adequacy of parking in the town, parking zones, permits, unregulated parking and funding issues.
Mr Dollard said professional consultants carried out a study of parking in Ennis in April 2008, which indicated there were 3,113 parking spaces available for public use in Ennis Town Centre. Of these, 1,542 were Ennis Town Council parking spaces, with 759 off street and 783 on street, representing 49% of the town’s total parking spaces. There were a further 1,571 private parking spaces, all of which were off-street.
The report also found that approximately 56% of parking spaces were provided within a two/three minute walk (100 metres) of Abbey Street/O’Connell Street. Mr Dollard explained the projection of parking demand in the report for 2013 and 2018 indicated a requirement for an additional 260 to 360 spaces by 2013 and approximately 870 to 1,000 additional spaces by 2018.
“It should be emphasised that these projections were taken at a high level and were indicated as order of magnitude projections, rather than being specific and precise forecasts. The projects were prepared in a radically different economic environment and higher projections for growth than currently apply,” he added.
He pointed out that on foot of this 2008 report, Ennis Town Council sought expressions of interest in respect of the provision of additional car parking in the town.
“Two expressions were received, which were considered by the council. One of these is not proceeding and while a number of discussions have been held in relation to the second expression of interest, no formal discussions have to date been progressed,” he commented.
Mr Dollard said the council is also engaged in tentative discussions with operators of private car-parking facilities in the town, “as it is clear that current off-street car parking is grossly under utilised with one multi-storey car park experiencing a 30% occupancy rate on average with a peak of 70% occupancy being achieved on a very infrequent basis”. He added that the council is currently exploring ways in which such capacity can be better utilised.
The parking review also proposes that the entire Friar’s Walk car park should be short stay in order to optimise space turnover. Currently, 25% of its spaces are long-stay car parking. Mr Dollard commented also that the Glór and Cloughleigh long-stay car parks are under used and should be able to accommodate any displacement from the Friar’s Walk long-stay car park.
He also suggests that as part of the review of parking in public car parks, consideration should be given to changing from three-hour parking to two-hour parking in the Abbey Street, Woodquay, Parnell Street, Lower Market Street, Friary and Friar’s Walk car parks. “The objective is to increase the turnover of car-parking spaces, thereby facilitating shoppers and visitors to the town,” Mr Dollard added.
The town manager, in relation to two loading bays in Abbey Street, said consideration should be given to a dual use of these loading bays, whereby they could be used for loading at particular times to facilitate deliveries, while outside of these designated times, the bays would be available for standard on-street parking.
Ennis Town Council issued 508 parking permits during 2010. Surveys undertaken by the council at Parnell Street, Woodquay and Abbey Street car parks indicate that approximately 27% of spaces in these areas can be occupied by permit holders during the working day.
“In respect of Parnell Street car parking, this can reach 39% and during this survey, the lowest level experienced was 20% occupancy in all three car parks. As part of the council’s overall approach, it is essential to restructure the approach to the issuing of parking permits for all categories. Where permits are issued, these should reflect the cost of parking at such locations and provision will be made to ensure that permit holders utilise non-premium parking locations. Consideration will also be given to the introduction of a resident’s permit charge,” Mr Dollard said in his report.
The town manager has further suggested in the report that from examination of the existing car-parking bylaws, a number of town-centre areas are not at present included within the overall parking controls generally applicable to the town.
“For example, Francis Street, from the frontage of Tesco and Aldi to Park Row, is currently outside the scope of parking bylaws but it would be more appropriate to designate it as a two-hour pay and display on-street parking. Other town-centre locations such as Station Road are currently outside of the car-parking bylaws and other areas at Lifford Road and Cloughleigh Road should be considered for inclusion within the overall parking controls for the town,” he said.