LIMERICK County Council is considering introducing free parking in Newcastle West and other county towns next month in a bid to boost local trade this Christmas.
Senior County Hall officials were to meet this week to consider a proposal to scrap pay-and-display on-street parking from December 8 until after Christmas, following talks with business owners and local councillors.
If ratified, the move will echo Limerick City Councilâ€™s decision to allow limited free parking over Christmas in a bid to entice shoppers.
Newcastle West-based councillor Michael Collins, who has lobbied County Hall for free parking on behalf of small business owners in the town, said that he is â€œvery hopefulâ€ that the measure will be approved.
â€œI hope this is agreed, because it will provide a clear boost to local businesses. Anything that will help bring a bit of spending and investment into Newcastle West should be supportedâ€.
At present, disc parking is in force in Newcastle West, Abbeyfeale and Kilmallock. Motorists are currently allowed one hour of free parking, and must display a 50 cent parking disc for two hours thereafter, with a maximum of one disc permitted.
It is understood that the proposal currently before County Hall is to allow free on-street parking all day in all three towns from December 8 until the end of the year. Limerick City Council recently announced that parking in the city will be free after 2pm from December 7.
Florence Flanagan, a Newcastle West clothes shop owner and member of the local business association, said that free parking would encourage people to shop locally this Christmas. She added that the festive season remains the most vital time of the year for traders, who are working to make the best of an enduringly tough economic climate.
â€œBusinesses need a good Christmas. The only thing I would say is that the Budget is at totally the wrong time for us. Itâ€™s coming at the worst time of the year. Weâ€™d rather get it out of the way, let people loosen up a bit and try and get them back into the shopsâ€.
Meanwhile, this yearâ€™s Newcastle West Christmas lights display is set to be switched on on Friday, December 7 as part of the townâ€™s inaugural â€˜WinterFestâ€™ celebration.
Ms Flanagan said that local traders are hoping to collect enough donations to allow for a large array of lights, which will crown the townâ€™s festive celebrations.
â€œWeâ€™re the only town I know where thereâ€™s so many lights up. We do Maiden Street right up to Churchtown. Weâ€™re trying to cover the whole townâ€.