Can Ballinasloe afford paid parking?

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‘Can Ballinasloe afford paid parking?’ was the question posed by Fine Gael T.D. Paul Connaughton on Wednesday evening as he presented the results of a survey on the retail fortunes of Ballinasloe.

The survey found that 80 percent of respondents reported that paid parking discouraged them from shopping in Ballinasloe. Speaking at the presentation of results in Gullane’s Hotel, Ballinasloe, on Wednesday evening, Deputy Connaughton asked if, given the current economic climate, any town could afford to discourage such large numbers of potential customers.

‘Since I was elected, the topic of the decline in the retail trade in Ballinasloe has been raised with me time and again, by business people but more so by local people concerned about the fortunes of their town. I decided that it would be a good idea to conduct a survey to see what encourages people to come to Ballinasloe to do their shopping and what discourages people, what people feel the town needs and what areas could be improved upon.

‘The survey revealed some interesting facts. For example, in rating most important factors when shopping, price was top of the list, but the number two and three spots went to parking and convenience. Also, half of those surveyed prefer to shop in chain stores, as opposed to independent retailers, a figure which was much higher than I had anticipated.

‘The responses highlight the difficulties being faced by many in the retail sector in the town. For example, 30 percent of those who responded said that since the new motorway opened, they shop more outside the town. Also, just ten percent of those surveyed (all of whom lived in the town) said that Ballinasloe is their first choice when going clothes shopping.

‘A large number of respondents commented on the lack of a cheap and cheerful range of clothing in town and were such a retailer to locate in town, it would be important that this was located in the heart of the town, to increase footfall in the town centre and provide a more vibrant shopping experience to consumers in Ballinasloe.

‘Respondents were asked what could be done to improve the economic fortunes of the town and the responses included getting rid of paid parking, providing a greater range of shops and better promotions in the town.

‘This was a small survey and what it does highlight is the need for a much more in-depth study of the retail fortunes of the town. I hope that the survey results prompt a conversation in the town among all shareholders and help harness the undoubted levels of goodwill that local people have towards the town.

‘Copies of the survey are available from my office at Main Street, Ballinasloe or by emailing paulj.connaughton@oir.ie