Published: 05:00, 22 April 2022
| Updated: 14:10, 22 April 2022
Frustrated pensioners say Canterbury City Council’s rollout of a pay-by-phone service at some district car parks is ageist.
Motorists using a host of sites in the city, Herne Bay and Whitstable have to use their mobiles to pay for stays via the RingGo app or over the phone, rather than use a machine.
A number of council car parks, including the seaside stretch at Faversham Road in Seasalter, are now cashless.
A controversial new fixed fee of £1.50 for weekdays and £3 for weekends between April and September was introduced at the secluded spot this month.
Sheila Miller, who coordinates an elderly swimming group at Seasalter, is certain the new charges and use of RingGo will deter the majority of members from visiting the coast.
“It’s ageist and absolutely discriminatory against the elderly,” the 74-year-old said.
“We can’t plead poverty as we can afford cars and drive. It’s just that many of the elderly do not have a smartphone, or know how to use RingGo.
“You need to be able to register with RingGo or download the app - but many in my group have found this impossible, and some do not know what an app is.
“Putting in bank details on a mobile can be scary for the older generation, as they are afraid of scams.”
Visitors to the Seasalter car park now have to register their arrival with RingGo and pay for their stay using their mobile phone.
“It’s proved impossible for some,” said Mrs Miller.
“Why can’t there be a more simple way of paying? Surely getting an annual pass or permit for us to use would be better.”
Elsewhere in the district, cashless parking has been introduced at car parks including Toddlers Cove, Victoria recreation ground and Cow Lane in Wincheap, and Bishopstone Lane in Herne Bay.
With RingGo, users can either pay via the app or by calling a number displayed on signage at the car park.
Upon visiting Seasalter this week, KentOnline called two different numbers, but the fee our reporter was told to pay varied. The price should have been £1.50, yet RingGo stated the sum would be £1.70, and then on the second attempt, £1.90.
The added confusion is just another factor which Mrs Miller says is deterring people from going to the coast.
“Going swimming is a great way of keeping active, and it’s really healthy for older people,” she said.
“Meeting on the beach has been an absolute lifesaver for dozens of elderly people during the last two years. More than 50 people are involved in the group.
“Many bring garden chairs and a flask of tea with them to the beach, to enjoy the fresh air, a swim and a chat with others. Most of them would not be too unhappy about paying for parking, but are simply unable to do so. I certainly know people are going to give up because of this. It is very sad to see people pull up at Seasalter, be unable to pay for whatever reason, and feel they need to move on again straight away.”
Fellow swimmer Helen Nattrass said: “I come swimming here about four times a week.
“RingGo is ridiculous as it overcharged me. It’s so difficult to use. We’re all from the district yet we get treated like tourists.”
New signs detailing the fixed fees and payment method at the off-road car park have this week been graffitied by those angry with the charges.
Council spokesman Leo Whitlock said: “While we understand the fact the imposition of new parking charges is never popular, the money generated helps pay for the vital frontline services the council provides to those who desperately need our help.
“Repeatedly defacing the signs at Faversham Road with graffiti is puerile, a bit pathetic and a clear case of criminal damage should the perpetrator get caught. It will not lead to the decision being reversed, costs council taxpayers’ money to clean up and diverts resources away from where they are needed the most.
“People without a mobile phone can call 01227 802804 and pay before they leave home.
“The zone number for the car park you plan to use can be found on our website or by calling 01227 862000.”