COUNCILLORS on the Kincardine and Mearns area committee this week backed a six month “cashless” parking trial in Stonehaven’s Market Square.
It is the only town in Aberdeenshire to pilot the scheme, which offers motorists the choice of paying for their parking by mobile phone from June 1.
A report before councillors stated that Aberdeenshire Council currently has 50 Pay and Display machines most of which are nearing the end of their cycle and will cost £250,000 to replace.
The report stated: “The operation of a cashless parking system along with limited number of Pay & Display machines in each of Aberdeenshire’s 28 Pay & Display car parks...would require limited Council investment.”
Officials, who stressed at this week’s meeting of the area committee that the council would retain a reduced Pay & Display machines in all its Pay & Display carparks, believe that significant savings could be made from adopting the scheme thanks to reduced maintenance and collection costs.
However, some of the area committee members harboured reservations about how many people would utilise the service.
Under the scheme, motorists would register to use the service with a cashless parking operator - including details of their car registration and payment details.
Customers would then phone or text the details of the car park they are parking in, using the unique location number displayed on signs within the park, and the duration of their stay.
The system will be linked to handheld devices, allowing traffic wardens to see who has paid to park and who has not.
Parkmobile - a cashless operating supplier with over 150 contracts in the UK - has offered the council the trial period free of charge in order to see the impact of the system and the level of uptake amongst customers.
The council’s head of transportation Mark Skilling told members that the typical take-up rate was between 10-20%.
Stonehaven and Lower Deeside councillor Peter Bellerby said: “I would be totally opposed to a situation where cashless parking was the only option open to people. There are problems with this, like the requirement to register.
“A lot of people I have talked to do not like this idea of registering, they do not want their details like their phone number, their credit card details being stored for what is trivial sums of money.”
Fellow ward member Graeme Clark said: “I am certainly all in favour of an experiment like this. I think as long as it works in parallel with the existing machines, I see no problem. If this is going to be the way forward, if it is going to save the council money then let’s go for it.”
Aberdeenshire provost Bill Howatson added: “Clearly there are unknowns around this and we can judge it on the evidence that it yields.”