Motorists will soon be able to pay cash again to leave their vehicles in Keswick’s major car parks after a U-turn by Allerdale Borough Council.
Groups of bemused drivers had been gathering at the town’s cash-free pay-and-display machines as they tried to use coins or overcome poor reception to pay by card via their mobile phones on the MiPermit app.
Many did not realise that the bank card-accepting machines at Central, Bell Close, Otley Road and Lakeside car parks — all of which have been incredibly busy since lockdown was lifted — did not take cash or they were unable to pay using technology, often through no fault of their own.
The problem had been brought to the attention of the authority by councillor Allan Daniels, one of Keswick’s three Allerdale representatives.
Now he has received a reply from the council’s chief executive, Andrew Seekings, who said that, following discussions with the car parking machine supplier, changes including new SIMs and wi-fi boosters would be brought in over the next four weeks.
Mr Seekings said he and Allerdale’s head of financial services, Catherine Nicholson, had taken the decision to start cash payments, adding that the situation would be reviewed again after the charges were brought in.
The no cash policy had been introduced to help protect Allerdale staff from possible infection from coronavirus on coins and banknotes.
Mr Daniels, who is a Conservative on the borough council and an independent member of Keswick Town Council, said: “The situation was ridiculous. Every time I walked through a town centre car park it was a nightmare.
“You would find a line of extremely frustrated and bewildered people trying to make the machine work before walking away without being successful.
“In a town like Keswick, we have an ageing population where people don’t necessarily have the technology to use a smart phone app to pay or even a credit card.
“It was a bit discriminatory against certain members of the population that might not have the technology to use a cashless machine.”
He said Allerdale was also losing out on revenue, having already lost a huge amount of car parking income during lockdown, while some motorists were being issued with parking tickets despite it not being their fault that they could not pay.
“I had asked Allerdale’s portfolio holder that cash be reintroduced at the parking machines but was told they would not change, so it’s nice to see Allerdale using a bit of common sense.
“I talked to the guy giving out tickets who is on the front line, getting all the abuse. Drivers were also worried about getting a fine when they came back to their cars.”
Work has already started on installing the new machinery and technology which should enable people to pay cash before the end of this month.