A call for free parking in Waterford City Centre at times of peak shopping, as an aid to attracting custom to hard-hit traders, has been made by a prominent local public representative.

The idea comes from City Councillor John Halligan who said that in terms of parking, businesses in the city centre were at a huge disadvantage compared to stores on the outskirts, where there is a plentiful supply, free.

Having met with the people concerned, he said there was no doubt they were suffering a severe decline in trade owing to the economic collapse. Equally there was no doubt their problems were exacerbated by the cost of parking.

“If shoppers have the option of free parking or paying for the privilege before spending their hard-earned, it’s a no-brainer as to which choice they’ll make”, said the former WP councillor, now an Independent.

He wants the City Council to review its pay-for-parking policy in the city’s main shopping areas and make it available free on Friday afternoons and all day Saturday, when trade tends to peak. “I have no doubt it would be a major help towards keeping shops open and retaining the jobs they provide”, he commented.

He suggested an initial trial period of six months, after which the situation could be reviewed.