Derry and Strabane Councillors raise concerns about changes to off-street car parking

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Derry City and Strabane District Councillors have raised concerns about changes to off-street car parking.

It follows the appointment of contractor NSL/ Marston Holdings Ltd who, as of April 1, have been responsible for all off-street parking enforcement and processing in the district. The change-over also required users to download and use a new parking app.

At the April meeting of the Council’s Business and Culture Committee, People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin said an officers’ report on Marston Holdings’ practices was forthcoming.

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Councillor Harkin added: “There is also a convenience fee every time you use the app, sometimes people have to go from one car park to the next, and every time they use the app at the next car park they’re charged the fee.

Car Park, Bishop Street inner.  DER2126GS - 058Car Park, Bishop Street inner.  DER2126GS - 058
Car Park, Bishop Street inner. DER2126GS - 058

“Marston, or the app organisation, also take out a full day’s cost to park, so even if you stay for an hour you’re charged for eight or ten and get it back three or four days later.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Brian Harte and SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell said they had also been contacted by constituents about the issues.

Councillor Farrell said holding fees can take “up to a week” to be reimbursed and, if someone uses multiple car parks they will have “multiple pre-authorisation fees”.

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“If you don’t have a lot of money in the bank, that’s a problem,” Councillor Farrell said. “And there’s also a fee for getting a text about a charge and what they call a ‘convenience fee’, but it’s actually an inconvenience fee.”

William Street car park. (2711PG43)William Street car park. (2711PG43)
William Street car park. (2711PG43)

He asked officers if there was a way for all councils to give feedback on the app and practices.

Head of Business, Kevin O’Connor, said there was a forum for all councils which met recently to discuss the issues, and officers have “made some headway”.

Mr O’Connor said the previous contractors also had a convenience fee for every individual park, and the current fee “will pertain”.

“In terms of per-authorisation, the difference between this new app and the last one is that, when you start parking, it asked if you had enough money and if you didn’t you wouldn’t start parking.

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“For this [app], while no money comes out of your account, there’s a charge on it, you are not able to use it yourself and it can take seven days.

“We’re trying to work and see if there can be any fixes around multiple parking usages, and that’s a work in progress.

“In terms of the texts, that’s something we’ve been strongly opposed to. Now when you register your details, you’ll be asked to opt into that.”

“This is opposed to opting out, which we didn’t think was good practice and made us seriously concerned when we became aware of it.

“So, if you want to receive a text, you need to be made aware it’s going to cost you and need to actually agree to that, which wasn’t the case this time last week.”

According to a spokesperson from Marston Holdings: “The convenience fee charged by the RingGo cashless parking solution is similar to what was in place prior to 1st April when our contract started. Also, the pre-authorisation is standard practice across many industries where charges are unable to be pre-determined at the time of purchase.

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“Regarding the SMS fees, users must opt in to receive text messages when setting up their RingGo accounts and are unable to book their first parking sessions until they have selected whether or not they wish to receive these SMS reminders. This option is not switched on as a default setting and users can change their preferences at any time using the RingGo app. Discussions are ongoing to address the concerns over pre-authorisations on multiple parking sessions per day.”

Andrew Balfour,

Local Democracy Reporter

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