business leaders across the city have welcomed plans to offer free parking in the run-up to Christmas.
This Monday night, councillors agreed to offer free parking from 2pm until close of trading every day from Saturday, December 8 until New Years Eve.
Council director Kieran Lehane said the scheme has been made possible through small-scale savings in other sectors - and the local authority will not lose out from the loss of revenue as a result.
The plan - which came following a motion from Fine Gael’s northside councillor Michael Hourigan - will see 3,000 car parking spaces made available for free. It is hoped the news will give businesses in the centre a timely boost ahead of the busiest time of year for retail.
But Catherine Street businessman Shane Gleeson thinks the council can go further.
“I am delighted they went this far. I would have liked to have seen them go further. I would ask them, depending on the results in the first week, if they would move it to 12 o’clock. They will know from Brown Thomas, and the other larger stores whether it is having an impact,” he said.
Limerick Chamber chief executive Maria Kelly says the scheme shows the council is “adopting a pro-business attitude”.
“I cannot think of another local authority offering free parking anywhere in the country. Our view is that the problem with parking has always been a perception rather than a reality. Compared to other parts of the country, there is actually more available parking and it is cheaper here in Limerick. But the perception has got out, some of it internally, that parking is a problem in Limerick. This helps to eradicate the perception, and helps to remove a perceived barrier,” she told the Limerick Leader.
Last Christmas, City Council offered free parking only on Friday and Saturday afternoons.
Limerick Local Authorities manager Conn Murray said he hoped the initiative would boost pre-Christmas trade in the city centre.
“In order for the Greater Limerick Area to thrive, it requires a strong city at its core and we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to shop in Limerick city centre this Christmas. We want to encourage families to come in, support the city and enjoy the atmosphere, shopping and festive food and craft markets that Limerick will offer.”
The festive lights will be officials turned on on Friday, November 16.