More than 150,000 parking fines issued in Northern…

More than 150,000 parking fines were issued last year in Northern Ireland, official figures show.

A group representing shop owners said it was “outrageous”.

The Infrastructure Department said enforcement of restrictions improved road safety.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “These statistics are simply staggering.

“Over 150,000 parking and bus lane fines handed out to motorists in our town and city centres is having a clear and negative impact on shoppers and our members.”

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts criticised the parking fines (Paul Faith/PA)

The Infrastructure Department said 94,542 on-street parking Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) were issued last year, almost half in Belfast and a rise of 11% on the previous year.

Another 37,374 concerned off-street parking, a 4% increase, with the greatest number issued in Fermanagh and Omagh and the lowest in Antrim and Newtownabbey.

A total of 20,807 surrounded moving traffic offences in the Greater Belfast area involving bus lanes and bus-only streets.

They were mainly centred around Donegall Square East, Great Victoria Street and College Square East.

The tally decreased by a quarter after CCTV cameras were switched off in Castle Street due to a change in traffic management.

A statement from the Infrastructure Department said: “Enforcement of parking restrictions and bus lanes aims to reduce the number of illegally-parked vehicles and unauthorised vehicles using bus lanes during operational hours.

“This, in turn, will reduce traffic congestion, improve road safety, improves accessibility for all road users, including Blue Badge holders and improves bus journey times.

“In order to achieve these benefits, it is important that appropriate action is taken to discourage those who park or use bus lanes illegally.

“PCNs are issued to drivers who contravene regulations, as this greatly impacts on other commuters and has a knock-on effect on traffic flows.”

Retail NI has consistently hit out at an allegedly “over-zealous” fining policy and the negative message it sends out to shoppers who use their cars to travel to town centres.

Mr Roberts added: “The only winners from this are the large out-of-town supermarkets, which have free car parking and no traffic attendants.”

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