The Council's introduction, several years back, of charging for parking along the main shopping stretch of Northdown Road had obvious advantages. Much needed revenue clearly topped the list.
But the scheme has brought huge inconvenience to local residents, and particularly to those living in the roads leading directly off the main high street. The majority of the houses in these roads date back to the turn of the century, a time when vehicular storage meant nothing more than finding a wall up against which to prop the bike.
Even today, therefore, garages on these properties are the exception; residents traditionally parking their cars at the kerb side. And until the introduction of charging for parking on Northdown Road they were quite often lucky enough to find a spot within a reasonable distance of their homes.
Not now. Shoppers, staff and business proprietors quite understandably seek to avoid the charges by parking their vehicles in the adjacent residential roads. And, let's face it, who can blame them?
But the problem then steps up a level. Having failed to fully consider the possible ramifications of the pay-to-park scheme, thereby inconveniencing those living nearby, the Council continues to exacerbate the problem by granting applications, seemingly willy-nilly, from desperate Cliftonville residents wishing to install dropped kerbs and hard-standing in front of their properties.
Now, dropped pavements ought to be the obvious solution. And they are in one way. Well, at least they are for those who can afford them. And they are not cheap.
The problems occur when those lucky enough to have their own dropped kerb and hard standing for a vehicle decide to abuse the system. And they do. There are very few things that cause so much annoyance and frustration than to drive home with fifteen bags of shopping to unload, only to find that the nearest parking place is in the next street. But one thing beats even that, and it's this: arriving home with the same bags only to notice hard-standing left empty while the resident's vehicle is parked on the roadside in front of a neighbouring property. Hey Presto! Cliftonville's parking problems doubled at a stroke!
This practice is both irresponsible and selfish. And it happens a lot.
Advice on the legal issues surrounding dropped kerbs is confusing and ambiguous. Basically it depends on who is asked. Some authorities, including certain councillors, will tell you that whilst it might be considered unneighbourly, one is actually quite within one's rights (if there really is no alternative) to park in front a dropped kerb so long as in doing so one is not preventing the exit of a vehicle already parked on the hard standing. Other authorities deny this is the case. Even staff within the same department at TDC have been known contradict each other on this point. The police themselves give advice that, at best, lacks consistency.
Whatever the case may be, enough is enough. Cliftonville's residential streets can take only so many dropped kerbs. That limit was reached a very long time ago.