AN ELDERLY couple who were hit with a parking fine while card machines were not working at a beauty spot say the new payment system discriminates against people without mobile phones.

Malcolm Langridge visited Stanmer Park on Wednesday morning with his wife and found the card machine in the Patchway car park was broken, and his only option was to download an app or pay using a mobile phone.

The 70-year-old, who did not have a mobile phone with him, drove to the Lower Lodges West car park to speak to wardens, who told him not to worry about payment as charges were suspended while machines were out of use.

He returned to the Patchway car park and went for a walk - but when he returned he was shocked to discover a £50 parking fine on his car.

The Argus: Photo: Eddie MitchellPhoto: Eddie Mitchell

The pensioner, who lives near Uckfield, said: "It's an absolute shambles.

"Firstly they should have everything working by now.

"There's only one machine per car park and if they're not working, what are you supposed to do? You are forced to have a mobile phone to be able to pay.

"It's not that we're not prepared to pay - but this method of paying for parking is discriminating against old people with no mobile phones.

"We don't download apps - the most we do use it for is to make a call.

"There should at least be a sign to say no entry at this car park unless you can download apps on a phone.

"It's outrageous."

On finding the £50 parking fine on his car, Malcolm returned to the Lower Lodges West car park to try to speak to wardens, but they had all gone.

He said: "All the wardens had disappeared. The man mending the ticket machine told us he couldn't remove the fine but told us to appeal it.

The Argus: Parking charges have been introduced across Stanmer Park, with six car parks and overflow parking available Parking charges have been introduced across Stanmer Park, with six car parks and overflow parking available

"The fine is reduced by half if we pay within 12 days.

"We've sent an appeal but the council's reply was that it would take four to six weeks for them to deal with as there is a backlog, so now we don't know what to do."

There are six designated car parks in Stanmer Park - Lower Lodges East, Lower Lodges West, Patchway, the Church car park, Upper Lodges and Chalkhill.

However, only two of these have card machines - Lower Lodges West car park and the Patchway - while all other car parks require visitors to use an app, or pay over the phone by calling a helpline.

The new charges introduced at the start of the month have proved controversial.

More than 1,500 people have signed a petition for the council to offer an affordable permit for regular walkers at the park, while a parking sign in the Upper Lodges car park was vandalised with paint within days of charges being brought in.

Malcolm said he and his wife have often used Stanmer Park as a meeting spot to see old friends.

He said: "We normally like to meet friends from Worthing for a walk there, as it's a good halfway point, but it feels like we've got to find somewhere else to walk now.

"I'm not going to buy a mobile phone just to go for a walk.

"There were people around us who had no signal too - it was confusion everywhere. It's all a bit of a mess."

A council spokesman said: “We’d like to apologise for any confusion caused by parking payment machines in Stanmer Park not working properly last week.

“We would encourage any visitors who feel that a parking fine was issued to them unfairly to appeal against them.

“If it is clear the fines were caused by the problems with the broken-down payment machines last week then this will be taken into account as part of the appeal review.

“Payments can be made via PayByPhone (either through their app or calling their dedicated helpline) at all of Stanmer Park’s car parks, as well as by machine at the Lower Lodges West and Patchway car parks.

The Argus: Stanmer ParkStanmer Park

“However, we would remind visitors that the Church car park is PayByPhone only – and to use other car parks if they cannot use any of PayByPhone’s services."

The spokesman added that the parking charges follow an investment of more than £6 million in the park as part of Stanmer Park restoration project, which involves the council, Plumpton College, the National Lottery and the South Downs National Park Authority.

He said: “We undertook public consultation before introducing charges for parking. All the income from car parking is ring-fenced for the management, maintenance and improvement of Stanmer Park.

“We will be closely monitoring how the payment systems are working over the coming weeks and months.”