Controversial parking payment system ‘discriminates’ against people without mobiles, councillor claims
- Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017
A controversial parking payment system installed in Norwich has been slammed for discriminating against people who do not have mobile phones.
People wanting to park at Earlham House Shopping Centre for more than an hour now have to use their mobile phones in order to pay for a ticket.
But there are concerns the system has already started to deter elderly shoppers from using the complex off Earlham Road.
At least two people - both over 70 - have already received fines from National Parking Enforcement (NPE) for not buying a ticket.
In both cases, they said they did not have a mobile phone on them and were unaware of the restrictions.
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Denise Carlo, Green city councillor for Nelson Ward, said: 'Having to pay for parking via a mobile phone or a text discriminates against people without technology.'
She said the system was 'deterring' older people from visiting the shopping centre, which then impacted the livelihoods of local traders.
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Parking and enforcement has long been a bone of contention at Earlham House. Previously, traders claimed customers were being fined if their tyres touched the white lines of parking spaces.
New regulations requiring shoppers to pay for parking were introduced last year.
NPE, which monitors the car park, said the decision not to install a pay machine was due to the risk of vandalism.
It said customers could pay with a landline telephone, a mobile or through the internet.
Martin Baker, who owns the Post Office at Earlham House, said: 'I think it has probably put some people off from coming here.
'I did ask if this could be seen as discriminatory because of the payment system. Not everyone has access to a smart phone.'
Blue badge holder Roy Potton, 80, from Scoulton, said his first visit to the shopping centre ended with him receiving a £60 fine.
He said he waited in a disabled bay for more than an hour while his friend went to a physiotherapist - not realising he needed to pay.
'Not everyone has a mobile phone,' he said. 'I certainly didn't that day, and even if I did, I wouldn't be able to use it.'
NPE said: 'This method of payment can be found in many car parks, and more operators are upgrading to this system.'