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Union Street car park could become ‘text payment only’

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A LOCAL man has expressed strong objections to the prospect of Union Street car park in Melksham becoming a cashless car park.

Steve Hall, who lives on Union Street and uses the car park on a regular basis, believes the possibility of  it becoming a text-only payment car park is not convenient for anyone, apart from the council.

Steve wrote to Wiltshire Council and said, “How, in any way does this benefit the users? How are people without mobile phones going to be able to quickly pay for parking? How are the elderly, who perhaps mistrust payment by phone, or have difficulty texting, going to pay? Or for those like myself, who have a phone supplied by their employers, but who obviously can’t make payments on that phone, going to pay?

“I was informed that for those who couldn’t, for whatever reason, pay by text, that there was a number they could call from home to pay. Do you seriously expect people  like myself, who perhaps use the car park for an hour each day after work, and a few hours at weekends, to park up, then go home and ring some automated number to go through an endless list of ‘press 1 for…etc, rather than just drop 30p into the machine?

“Why was there no consultation with the residents, that I was aware of, before this was imposed, either by letter, or by prominent signs in the car-park itself?

“This is clearly being carried out for no-one’s convenience, least of all the people who use it most, but your own.”

Steve told the Melksham News, “I haven’t received any information as to why the residents of Union Street had not been given advance notice of the impending trial, either by letter, or by notices prominently displayed in the car park itself.

“It’s an inconvenience to me, as this is a car park I use on a regular basis but at differing times, and for different time periods, and as my phone is supplied by my employers, I cannot use it to make payments.

“It feels like this is being done purely for the convenience of the council. Given the recent small reduction in parking charges after last year’s parking review, it feels like they are giving with one hand, and clawing it back with the other.

“I do feel like this will isolate some people; not everyone is either up to date or comfortable with  the technologies concerned, and as for negotiating your way around the council website to find out information on, let alone obtaining residents’ parking permits.”

Joanne  Pattison, acting parking services manager said, “A county-wide parking review took place in 2015; part of that review was to trial cashless parking options in several of Wiltshire’s car parks.  This was a full consultation with signage erected in all car parks.

“For those customers that do not wish to pay by mobile phone, they can use the adjacent car park, Lowbourne, and park their vehicles there.

“I can confirm that this trial will last for 6 weeks not 6 months.”

A spokesperson for Wiltshire Council said, “Benefits are greater flexibility for customers, if they don’t have change or if their parking time is running out they can extend via the phone. It also reduces costs for Wiltshire Council such as machine maintenance and cash collection costs.

“At the moment this trial includes Union Street Melksham, Wood Street in  Royal Wootton Bassett and Sheep Street in Devizes. Signage in the car parks is full and comprehensive, detailing what the customer needs to do and also inviting comment and feedback via parking@wiltshire.gov.uk “