HOW COLLEGE which introduced charges to the car park at Artrix today has been lambasted over its decision not to offer cash as one of the payment methods.
The Standard was contacted about the issue with fears being expressed it would put many older people off visiting the centre.
The fees which are charged up to 7pm are comparable to the town centre car parks but the difference is Bromsgrove District Council enables motorists to pay with cash.
And The Standard has been told Artrix was not consulted by the college before it took the decision about how the charging would work in practice and which payment methods would be offered.
Patrick Murphy, who uses Artrix in the daytime, said: “Artrix is the jewel in the crown of Bromsgrove’s entertainment scene and a focal point for senior citizens.
“I go there in the daytime and see how many are there and the pleasure they get.
“We all know how loneliness dogs the older generation these days and this move can only act as a deterrent from getting them out the door and meeting people.
“I can use my mobile to pay for parking but Sid and Doris who are 75 years old and may not even have a phone will not be able to.
“Why can’t they accepting cash payments like every other car park in the district?
“This move can only reduce attendance because it will put some people off.”
His thoughts were echoed by Carole Tipping from the Bromsgrove Forum for Older People.
She said many of the group’s members would not be comfortable using a mobile phone to pay for parking and some did not even have a mobile phone.
She added she, herself, whilst owning a smart phone, preferred not to pay by phone.
The group is due to meet next Tuesday, September 10, and the issue is due to be discussed then.
Angela Galvin, Director of Artrix, said: “Since HoW College announced it would be charging for parking from September 2, the Artrix team has fielded a huge number of enquiries to the best of our ability with the information available.
“We have always we understand HoW seeing the car park as an income generating opportunity – as people have said, parking charges are now ‘a fact of life.’
“We were as surprised as everyone else to learn that payment can only be made by phone with no cash, no cards and no ticket machines.
“We are in agreement with our customers that a pay by phone system as the only option is not suitable or accessible for everyone.
“Unfortunately this situation is out of our control.”
A spokesperson for the college said it considered a variety of options with regard to the provider – Parking Eye – and also chose one which was cost-effective for the college.
“As you will be aware funding for Further Education (FE) colleges has been frozen since 2013, whilst we have continued to incur considerable inflationary cost, pay and pension increases.
“We also have a duty to ensure those resources we receive from the Government, and especially from employers and individuals who have saved up to pay their own course fees, are directed to supporting those students in receiving the education they are paying for, and in achieving their full potential.
“We are aware some users of our car parks, whilst understanding of our reasons for introducing charging, have expressed concerns that there are no cash payment facilities planned.
“Unfortunately because of the considerable cost pressures we operate under we needed to implement a parking management solution that minimised cost and resource implications, and did not divert funding away from our students.
“We did investigate cash pay and display options, unfortunately however these all placed considerable additional burdens and costs upon the college, and we had to reluctantly concede this was not an option we were able to pursue.
“We do understand and appreciate the concerns raised by those who are less receptive to modern technologies, but unfortunately a Pay and Display solution was unaffordable given our own limited resources.”
The Standard contacted the British Parking Association to see if any rules had been breached by the college and provider not offering a cash payment.
A spokesperson for the BPA said: “There aren’t any rules about payment options, but makes sense to offer multiple methods.
“It’s not just elderly people who don’t like to use mobile apps it is something common across all age groups for various reasons, although younger people are more likely to use them.
“The British Parking Association advocates parking operators offer a range of payment options including cash, but we do appreciate that this may not be a viable option in all circumstances.
“Motorists should feel confident that they can pay for parking with either cash, card or phone wherever they choose to park.”
Director surprised by ‘strength of feeling’
THE DIRECTOR of Artrix has said it had received some ‘strong views’ on social media and at the centre about the decision to charge for car parking at the site, even though it was out of its control.
“For a small patch of tarmac just off the A38, the HoW car park has certainly unleashed some strong feelings over the past few weeks.
“We know these emotions are as much about loving Artrix as they are about disliking car park fees.
“We have worked very hard over the past year to build up our day-time programme to serve the local community and generate much needed income since our council funding was cut.
“We would be devastated if this effort is undermined by people who feel the car park charges will put them off using Artrix.
“To those who have posted ‘RIP Artrix’ in response to the news, we’d say thanks for your concern but there’s life in us yet!
“The best way to show you care about our good health is to continue supporting this unique community asset.
“We believe our programme of events is good enough to keep drawing in the crowds and hope that those who feel so passionately about the parking changes will continue to support Artrix and keep the arts alive in Bromsgrove.”