A SCHEME which allows motorists to pay for parking tickets using their mobile phones has halved the number of fines handed out in Rochford District car parks since it was introduced.

The number of parking tickets issued to drivers in the district’s car parks have plummeted by more than half largely because of the new pay by phone service that was introduced in 2011 councillors believe.

Rochford District Council provides more than 1,200 off-street car parking spaces in eleven pay and display car parks across the district.

In 2011/12 4,051 off street parking penalty charges were issued but this dropped to 1,998 by 2014/15.

Mike Steptoe, Rochford District councillor responsible for enterprise feels the new pay by phone service has been a blessing for shoppers.

He said: “I am pleased to see a steady drop in the number of penalty charge notices issued over the last 5 years.

“We all get delayed from time-to time and the council’s introduction of the pay by phone service gives motorists the ability to top-up their parking should they be held-up at the doctors, dentist, hairdressers or simply want to shop for longer.

“It is also reassuring to report that the number of visitors to our car parks has increased year-on-year during the same period.

“It demonstrates the accessibility and excellence of our parking facilities together with the popularity of our town centres.”

Carl Watson, chairman of Rayleigh Chamber of Trade, also thinks this new service offers huge benefits to shoppers such as flexibility and not feeling like the council are out there to constantly fine them.

He said: “It is good, absolutely. The concept of the pay by phone system allows customers if they are running late to do a top up.

“The fact that the parking charges have halved shows that the council is not out to penalise people. It’s all good news.

“It makes people feel more positive that they aren’t being fined. It offers flexibility and a different alternative.

There will be no car parking charges on Saturdays before Christmas at all Rochford District Council car parks.

The usual fees will be waived on Saturday, December 19 to help support businesses and residents to shop locally.

To pay by phone:

• The customer must ring the number displayed on the sign at the car park and then over the phone enter in their location and the amount of time they wish to stay, then make a payment using a credit or debit card.

• After the first time of use the customers details are stored and then next time the transaction is a lot quicker. There is also an app the customer can get on their phone to make the transaction even faster.

• Customers are able to receive a text message to remind them that their ticket is due to expire and allow them to top-up their ticket should they be delayed in returning to their vehicle.

• The machines display full details explaining how to pay using your mobile phone.