End of play and display parking machines will be 'disastrous' for over-65s

Pay-as-you-go machines are to be removed from car parks and streets, leaving more than two million motorists with 30 apps to pay the charge or face a fine.

Councils are scrapping the machines because mobile phone operators are switching off the 3G data networks used to process card payments. Vodafone will switch off its entire 3G network by the end of the year and EE’s network will be closed by 2024.

By the end of next month meters are set to be scrapped in Enfield, Bromley and Brighton and Hove, joining meter-free Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster and Barking and Dagenham.

The British Independent Retailers Association said it was "appalled" by the move, warning that parking apps are a barrier to many car drivers.

More than half of over-65s polled do not feel like using apps such as RingGo and PayByPhone, while four-in-ten across all ages said they would be put off going to town centres that did not have parking meters.

TalkTV's Mike Graham said: "The problem with all of these systems of paying, they are a lot more complicated than putting money into a meter or your credit card into a machine.

"But you won't even be able to do that. One of the reasons they stopped using coin operated machines is because there were gangs and guess what many of them were run by Albanian gangsters who used to go round collecting money by sawing off the top of the meter and taking the cash.

"If you don't want to have any parking app hell, there's lots of places you might not want to go anymore."

In the space of a few years, East Suffolk Council has cut the number of meters from 126 to 96 and west London machines have dwindled from 196 to 60.

Councils cite the cost of handling cash, thieves, declining use and the expense of upgrading machines as reasons for moving towards cashless alternatives.

Labour's Clive Betts warned: "People shouldn't be left to wrestle with countless apps to pay a parking charge or risk a fine when they aren't able to navigate the app successfully.

"These developments pose particular difficulties for elderly or vulnerable motorists who may not have a smartphone, or who may struggle to use apps if they do."

Caroline Abrahams of the Age UK said: "The news we may soon see the end of pay-and-display parking is disastrous for anyone without a smartphone, including millions of older people."