LIMERICK city centre could receive a major boost in the coming weeks with the roll out of a pilot scheme which will offer free parking to all motorists.
While no formal agreement has been reached, the Limerick Leader has learned that discussions are ongoing between Limerick City Council and the operators of private car parks across the city.
It is hoped that under the initiative, almost 10,000 on-street and off-street parking spaces will be offered free of charge at specific times.
There are currently around 3,000 on-street parking spaces in Limerick city with more than 5,000 off-street spaces.
A number of privately-operated car parks have offered free parking in the past in conjunction with certain retailers and a scheme offering free on-street parking on Friday and Saturday afternoons in the run-up to Christmas last year was hailed a major success by both shoppers and traders.
It is understood the new pilot scheme, if agreed, will run for a number of hours on Friday mornings in the hope of boosting the amount of people who travel into the city centre to do business during what is regarded as being a particularly quiet time.
The proposals, which have been drawn up by Department of Economic Development at City Hall, are one of a number of initiatves aimed at boosting footfall in the city centre as part of the Limerick 2030 plan.
“We have had discussions both within City Hall and with the operators of private car parks and the response has been positive,” said one source at City Hall.
It is hoped the operators of private car parks will support the proposals, even though they could lose out financially.
“The hope is they will show a gesture and give an hour or two for free and hopefully people who avail of the scheme will stay a bit longer,” said one person familiar with the discussions.
Separately, it is understood that discussions are underway with both Limerick Chamber and the Limerick City Business Association (LCBA) in the hope that their members will offer additonal incentives to encourage people to come into the city centre during the times that free parking is available.
The availability of parking spaces and the enforcement of the existing by-laws by Limerick City Council has long-been a contentious issue.
Many traders have been calling for action for years - citing the fact that shoppers are choosing to visit at out-of-town shopping centres instead of the city centre due to the availability of free parking.
However, one of the main concerns of the Roads Department at City Hall is preventing the monopolisation of on-street parking spaces by people who are working in the city.