Howth parking charges 'disastrous'

 

The introduction of car parking charges in the harbour of one of Ireland's great fishing towns could have a devastating effect on tourism and the local economy, it has been claimed.

Labour TD Tommy Broughan warned that the plan to start charging for parking in the harbour area in the north county Dublin village of Howth would be disastrous for the marine and leisure tourism industries there.

But Minister of State Dinny McGinley said there were 500 available car parking spaces and it would be illogical that harbour users would expect to continue to use such a facility free of charge when the State had to maintain it and only some users, those involved in fisheries, were effectively paying for it.

Describing the move as "crazy", the Dublin North East TD reminded the Dáil that jobs were lost in Dún Laoghaire in south county Dublin and the town was seriously damaged by the introduction of charges in the harbour area there.

And he hit out at the failure of the Department of the Marine to consult stakeholders including local community leaders, the chamber of commerce and the world-famous Howth Yacht Club.

Mr Broughan claimed the proposal would be bad for tourism and would deter visitors from the unique Howth peninsula. It would be disastrous for the local economy, he added.

But, defending the proposals, Mr  McGinley said a significant number of the 500 available car parking spaces was currently being taken up by commuters using the Dart service when the station car park was full. He said there had been significant investment in fishing harbours in recent years and his department was obliged to ensure they were run on a financially sound basis.

Given there were 500 parking spaces within the fishery area it is clear that a significant source of revenue exists, the Minister said.

Traffic management and parking needed to be addressed particularly because of concerns about safety and emergency access raised by the coast guard, the lifeboat service and the Garda, he added.

But the Labour TD said the concerns about health and safety fears and access for emergency vehicles on the west pier were "a complete red herring" because the problems could be dealt with through the use of designated spaces.

He called on Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney to visit Howth and have full and detailed consultations with local community leaders and see the geographical uniqueness of Howth because it was so close to 1.5 million people and used by hundreds of thousands of them annually.

Mr McGinley said he would convey his comments to Mr Coveney. He pointed out that no details on timing or the level of charges had been determined at this stage and he was sure the consultations Mr Broughan proposed will be sympathetically considered by the Minister.

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