Published: 15:45, 25 April 2022
| Updated: 16:07, 25 April 2022
Frustration over pay-by-mobile fees at a remote car park on the outskirts of Whitstable has now reached the national stage.
The topic has sparked much debate since Canterbury City Council was branded "ageist" last week after it emerged visitors to an off-road stretch in Seasalter can only pay over the phone, or via an app.
The talking point - originally raised by a frustrated group of sea swimmers – led to 87% of KentOnline readers who took part in a poll agreeing with the argument that all car parks should still have a cash option.
Today, the debate reached national airwaves in a discussion on BBC Radio 2.
Show host Jeremy Vine raised the matter following the immense reaction our story received last week.
RingGo and a host of other parking apps are used by councils across the country, with motorists paying for their stays without using cash or card at a parking machine.
Users can either pay via the app or by calling a number displayed on signage at the car park.
The continued rollout of the pay-via-mobile service has angered those who do not own a smartphone, or those wary of putting their bank details into an app.
While many share sympathy for elderly people unable to use the mobile technology, others say it is "imperative" pensioners get up to speed with smartphones and "stop living in the stone age".
During the Radio 2 discussion, Mr Vine spoke to disgruntled Seasalter swimmer Sheila Miller and a former Barnet councillor at the forefront of bringing in cashless parking 14 years ago.
Mrs Miller, who organises an elderly swimming group at the coastal spot, said: "You need to have a smartphone and that's a real difficulty for some elderly people who choose not to have a smartphone
"People are going to need their long-sighted glasses to see the sign, they're going to need reading glasses to see their phone.
"Arthritic fingers in the cold might not be able to key in the number."
Mrs Miller, who says you cannot always get phone signal at the car park, fears many of her swimming group will choose to avoid Seasalter due to the confusing parking payments.
In contrast, Brian Coleman, formerly of Barnet council, called on the elderly to keep up with the times.
"Frankly, these older folk are driving a car which can be a very dangerous piece of machinery," he said on the Radio 2 show.
"Surely they can operate an app on a mobile phone.
"Life moves on, we cannot go back. If you don't sign up you're sadly left behind.
"I'm happy to come down to Kent to run a session on how to download the app onto people's phones. It makes life simple."
In our original story, readers were asked in a poll whether all car parks should have a cash payment option.
Voters overwhelmingly supported the 'yes' option, with 87% of 2,800 people in favour of still having a cash option at car parks.
Commenting on Facebook, Amber King said: "It's completely unfair for people who just don't understand any type of technology.
"You say you can just ring the number and put all the details in but my mum who's only 66 wouldn't have a clue. Completely unfair."
Meanwhile, Darren Turner said: "There's nothing safer than standing in a dark or isolated car park with your phone, wallet and credit card in your hand, trying to pay a £1.50 parking fee.
"My bank actually blocked my card the other week because their fraud team thought me paying to park in Folkestone was unusual."
On the other side of the argument, a number of people have come to the defence of cashless parking.
Adrian Coleman wrote: "I’m a pensioner and use RingGo, it’s brilliant".
'It's completely unfair for people who just don't understand any type of technology...'
Pamela Bremner said: "RingGo is so convenient though. Who still carries loose change around these days? I couldn’t tell you the last time I used cash."
Canterbury City Council says motorists unable to pay via RingGo on arrival at its car parks can pre-pay their fee before setting off by calling a landline number.
“People without a mobile phone can call 01227 802804 and pay before they leave home," a spokesman said.
“The zone number for the car park you plan to use can be found on our website or by calling 01227 862000.”
But this has caused further confusion, as upon calling the number from a landline, users are told to enter their mobile number.
For those who do not have a mobile, it seems they can still type in a landline number and the pre-payment service does work.