File photo: Naas
God be with the days when you could rock into Naas in your Mazda 323 — with the rust eating everything off it but the tyres — and park where you liked.
Just for a day, once a year, Kildare County Council should come over all nostalgic, ban all the parking regulations and return the town to the relatively recent past.
This was a happy little time when the only parking bye-laws that existed were whatever standards you had in your head.
It was the Wild West of parking. You could leave your car where you wanted, for as long as you pleased and pretty much how you pleased; so long as you didn’t drive a slew of pedestrians off the footpaths as they went to collect their pensions in the post office.
It’s different today.
The issue of parking in Naas is like Donald J Trump — always contentious and contrary and looking for a scrap.
Most of us, in part of our hearts, yearn for a return to the free-for-all arrangement, even if we know it’s bad for us.
The problem is regulations became inevitable.
It’s like the behaviour of the banks pre-boom.
We came around to the idea that regulation was probably a good idea, all the more so given that there had been little or none of it and the consequences of this caused too many problems .
For a start, the town centre car park disappeared as the population grew and the authorities — often the EU — decided we needed public realms like the one in front of Naas Courthouse. It looks nice but beyond that what’s its use ?
There is daily congestion outside the building as garda cars are left on double yellow lines because there’s is nowhere else close by to park and footpaths were widened to take up parking spaces.
Yet parking rules are needed. And Naas can’t return to the a la carte approach any more than it can to the days when cattle were herded through the town on the way to be sold at the Fairgreen.
Still, the way the most recent changes were made has miffed our public representatives, who are shipping criticism from the public. KCC says it was mandated by the nine Naas councillors to change the rules.
For a start the benefits of free parking on Saturdays were being grossly overestimated by motorists who parked there all day long.
Somewhere along the way, KCC recruited the private parking management company Apcoa to replace the community wardens.
The Apcoa guys are on the street now in Naas (as they have been in Newbridge) and even if their uniform gives them a slightly forbidding look, they’re doing only what they been contracted to do.
Tickets are being issued and the recipients don’t much like it.
The feeling is that the community wardens they replaced were a tad more approachable, though they weren’t slow to do the job either.
Parking was worth €593,000 to KCC — from Naas alone — in 2016, when the wardens ran the show.
The current regime is not inflexible and was well advertised by KCC in advance.
You can park for 15 minutes free of charge and you’ve 15 minutes to get you and your Mazda out of town before the sheriff arrives with a ticket.
It’s likely that income from parking will increase if Apcoa remain in Naas and continue to issue tickets for infringements like parking nose-in.
This is a practice which was acceptable up to now and the loss of which has got up a few noses.
For now at least we haven’t heard the last of the turbulent issue of pay parking in Naas.
Doubtless there’s a bit more mileage left in this little saga.