Free early morning parking in town would boost business, says Clonmel Chamber

Free parking in the town centre of Clonmel, both on and off street, between 9am and 11am each day; two distinct parking zones in the town with different charges; and the installation of a barrier system at the Mary Street car park are among the changes contained in a new parking system for the town that has been proposed by the Chamber of Commerce.

Free parking in the town centre of Clonmel, both on and off street, between 9am and 11am each day; two distinct parking zones in the town with different charges; and the installation of a barrier system at the Mary Street car park are among the changes contained in a new parking system for the town that has been proposed by the Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber has made the submission in advance of the review of the parking bye-laws later this year. It says that the measures would improve the current situation without making a significant impact on the revenue base of Clonmel Borough Council.

It also says that the suggestions don’t require vast investment on infrastructure. “They don’t require the construction of a multi-storey car park. While the provision of such a high-quality facility will always be one of our long- term aims, we are realistic and are aware that many hurdles must be traversed before such a project can be undertaken.

So many of the problems relating to parking are not caused by infrastructure, they are caused by human behaviour. Looking around Clonmel we all can see the impact that habits have upon the issue.

Certain people like to park in exactly the same space that they park in every day. Others switch on their hazard lights and abandon their car in the middle of the road so that they can visit an ATM because they see other people doing it. Some people run in and out of offices every day of their working week feeding the ticket machine because they like to have their car in close proximity to their place of work. Would they still do that if they knew that they were feeding anything up to €2,448 per annum into a machine? No, because decades of research around the world have shown that people are inherently weak at computation of long-standing matters. Research has shown that people in general are too focused on short-term relief rather than accurately assessing long-term expenditure”.

The Chamber of Commerce says that its initial aims are to bring people back into the town centre and to demonstrate that Clonmel is an easy town in which to park. It says that to succeed there needs to be a change in behaviours and beliefs regarding parking in the town. The Chamber claims that too many people no longer shop in the town because of the widely-held belief that it is “impossible” to park in the town centre in close proximity to shops.

It says that free parking in the town centre, both on and off street, between 9am and 11am each day would encourage parents dropping children to school in the town to stay in the town centre rather than other out-of-town locations; it may entice those used to visiting the town at a later stage in the day to come earlier to avail of the free parking, and that doing so would reduce the demand for spaces later in the business day; and the offer of free parking for a two-hour period would attract individuals to shop in the town centre and spend more time in Clonmel than they ordinarily would.

To ensure that the system wasn’t being abused traffic wardens would be present in the high demand free parking areas from 11am in highly visible locations.

“Availability of free parking will definitely benefit the town at a quieter time of the day. Our visual surveys of parking availability in Clonmel in the months of May, June, July and August showed that parking was at its highest between 11am and 4pm from Monday to Saturday”.

Because it claims that the price of parking in the town can be confusing, the Chamber is proposing the creation of two distinct parking zones in Clonmel – a red zone that would cover the outer areas of the town centre and would incorporate existing long-stay car parks, with charges levied at €1.20 per hour or €3 per day; and a green zone that would cover the town centre and facilitate consumers visiting the town for less than 4 hours. Parking would be set at €1.20 per hour or 60 cent per half-hour on-street and in car parks.

The Chamber is also proposing that a barrier system would be installed at the Mary Street car park. It believes that doing so would bring an increase in revenue for the Borough Council, as users would have to pay according to the duration of their stay. Moving to such a system in a car park of this size would also reduce the need for enforcement at this site and would free up traffic wardens to ensure enforcement in other parts of the town.

The Chamber says that success in removing long-stay cars from areas of high demand and the change of habits would make Clonmel an easier place in which to park and shop.

“Our proposals are all framed against the need to keep Clonmel moving. We, as representatives of the business community, are working to increase footfall in the town centre. Despite the global challenges that we are faced with, we regard these proposals as practical and an effective means of allowing more people to experience all that Clonmel has to offer”.

In its submission the Chamber says it used a wide range of research including market research carried out for by Rikon (WIT) in 2011; notes from meetings hosted by the organisation in preparation for its submission for the Clonmel and Environs Development Plan; meetings of the Clonmel Chamber board of directors to discuss the parking issue; a survey of the business community in Clonmel (179 respondents) last July; and a number of visual surveys in the town to assess issues associated with parking.