A council has been made to look like “absolute idiots” for installing parking meters with card payment options at rural sites where there is not enough signal for them to work.
It has been said that at 20 of the Derbyshire Dales District Council-owned car parking sites, card transactions are rarely possible.
At a meeting on Wednesday, Coun Joyce Pawley said reports from council officers had shown that card payments at car parks across the district were alarmingly low.
This, she had been told, was due to the low amount of available signal from the rural sites
She had been told that card payments at 20 car parking sites were between 3.4 per cent and 14.4 per cent.
The council admitted that 3G coverage, even with the chosen provider, O2, is “by no means comprehensive” and signal is “notoriously poor” in rural areas such as much of the Derbyshire Dales.
It also says that it is pushing trials to improve connectivity for the parking machines – after a first successful trial in Bakewell.
Further burdens on the system it said, were cloud cover and excessive usage of the available signal by people using their mobiles in the vicinity of the meters.
It said that even with the poor signal, the council had taken £300,000 in the past 12 months via card payments at its car parks.
Coun Pawley said: “You have people going and trying to pay with card at these sites when it is unlikely to work.
“We have people thinking we are absolute idiots for putting these in place.
“Many people are having difficulties using their cards due to poor or insufficient signal quality in the region.
“People are seeing the card payment option on the interface and trying it when there is little chance of it working, should we not remove that option when we know it is not a reality?”
Of the council’s 56 car parking locations, 14 allow cash only, with the rest having card payment options.
A council trial in Bakewell to try and boost signal was a success, say officers, who are aware of the issue.
In Bakewell, the council attached a signal booster to the top of a nearby pole, which has seen card payments rise from four per cent to 22 per cent.
The council says that O2 had the best coverage when the council was scouting for suppliers to power the card payments capabilities at its car park machines.
It says that card payments are possible at all 42 locations in which the machines are in place.
The council says “it is clear that more visitors are choosing the cashless payment option”.
“Rather than removing stations that are under-performing, officers are undertaking trials with the aim of improving signal strength.”