A NORTH Belfast barber says she fears for the future of her business due to a lack of parking outside her premises.

Natalie James owns James Hairdressing for Men, which has been in Union Street for over 30 years. She says that the influx of students and staff to nearby Ulster University, student accommodation in the area and changes to parking, have all contributed to a lack of parking for her customers near her shop.

"Up until the new Ulster University campus arrived in the area, customers could park outside and use the nearby public car parks," she explained.

"Now university staff and students have basically taken over. This includes public car parks, on-street parking and residential areas. I have been in contact with the University several times but nothing has been done about it.

"This barber shop caters for customers that are nine-years-of-age or ninety-years-of-age and the lack of parking for them outside is just very unfair.

Belfast Media journalist Conor McParland speaking with Natalie James and Frank Dempsey

Belfast Media journalist Conor McParland speaking with Natalie James and Frank Dempsey

"Trade has considerably dropped. If customers can’t get parked, they will go somewhere else to get their hair cut. It is as simple as that.

"I have also been in touch with the Department for Infrastructure too. They claimed they visited the area but they certainly did not visit me.

"I want to stress I am totally for education but it should not be at the price of everyone else. This barber shop is my livelihood."

Frank Dempsey from Carrick Hill Residents' Association says the nearby Carrick Hill area has also been affected with increased parking.

"The whole area has been taken over by the University. It is having a detrimental effect on businesses here like Natalie and her barber shop," he added. "Businesses and residents who have been here for generations are being forced out of the area.

"There has been a total lack of meaningful consultation around the issues, which just seem to be brushed aside. It is the same in Carrick Hill and local residents are totally fed up."

An Ulster University spokesperson said: "In terms of car parking, the time limit for most on-street parking in the area is a maximum of two hours, including Union Street, Donegall Street, York Street and Royal Avenue, (except for Little Donegall Street which has a four-hour parking window), which is unlikely to be suitable for university staff and students working on campus or attending lectures.

"Our Travel and Transport colleagues within the University contacted the Department for Infrastructure and requested a review of the current four-hour parking limit in the vicinity of this business, asking that it be reduced to two-hours to ensure a greater turnover throughout business trading hours.

"The Department of Infrastructure agreed to consider this as part of the new Belfast Transport plan, known as the Eastern Transport Plan, which is currently under development.

"Ulster University will continue to work with the Department and various stakeholders to encourage staff and students to travel to campus sustainably: using public transport or by walking or cycling."

A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: “Departmental officials have carried out an inspection of the parking availability within the Controlled Parking Zone in and around the Ulster University complex and found parking opportunities available. 
"As a result, there are no current plans to alter the two-hour and four-hour parking restrictions which operate in this area, however, they will raise the issue of student parking at the next Area Safety Meeting which is chaired by UU.”