From: David Dixon, The Croft, Hastings
Roll up. Roll up for the Digital Mystery Tour! I refer of course to the frankly incredible farce now involved in renewing a resident’s parking permit within Hastings.
Knowing that others had experienced problems with this new online regime, I allowed myself six weeks to ensure I met the deadline before the traffic wardens could see me as fair game.
It was just as well. I am no stranger to IT – but this NSL website proved beyond me.
First I had to register with a password – but my early attempts were deemed not complicated enough. Never mind – eventually I was in.
Next came the drop down menu to confirm my address. That’s when I discovered that my street was missing from the website. Not to worry – a helpline phone number to NSL is available. This turned out to be an answerphone – that promised to call me back within three working days. I then sent off an email to NSL pointing out that although ESCC had sent me a reminder to renew my permit, since my address was not recognised there was nothing I could do.
At this point I recalled that Hastings Library now deals with various aspects of parking administration.
And yes – specialist help is available to victims of this website – but an appointment must be made and there is often a two-week waiting list. I was, however, pointed in the direction of a special telephone within the library, which offers a direct link to NSL. However, it was the same answerphone promising a call back within three working days!
A day or so later an email did arrive from NSL apologising for the omission of my address. I began again.
NSL next demanded that I upload photos of documents proving car ownership and ID to their website.
I took crude snaps of both with my phone and hoped for the best. I was somewhat relieved to learn that these had proved acceptable.
This early triumph was soon reversed however when a page or so further on, I was asked to supply the emission rating of my particular make and model of car. Again the website failed to list the particular version and engine rating of my mass selling common or garden hatchback. I abandoned the application once more and had to seek out the exact emission rating from the DVLA. Eventually this was established – and I progressed back through the NSL website once more.
It was an illusory victory – for I fell at the final hurdle when the website refused to confirm that my vehicle was registered at my address!
At this point I gave up – and settled for an appointment with the elusive expert at the library – some ten days into the future. I also thanked my lucky stars that I’d allowed well over a month for the whole exercise. Once the great day arrived I met with the NSL advisor at the appointed hour. I explained the whole story – but was reassured that I was not alone. Apparently when Ringo was replaced by the new regime, none of the existing data was handed over. As a result scores of residents within East Sussex were suffering a similar fate – as household addresses, vehicle records and zone details were missing from the new database. To add insult to injury NSL had recently been sold on to Marston Holdings, a debt collecting business – with further disruptions to its personnel and services.
Finally – after around 12 hours of my time – I managed to get my annual parking permit renewed. It seemed my mistake had been to click RENEW PERMIT rather than NEW PERMIT onto the website. Despite ESCC asking me to renew my existing permit, NSL had deemed mine a new permit, because like most local residents, I hadn’t dealt with them before.
After all of this it was reassuring to learn that according to Councillor Nick Bennett of ESCC, that we have in the new NSL online permit process ‘a far simpler and more user friendly’ service.
So much so that what once took around 10 minutes in the Parking Shop had taken me five weeks of pure frustration.
But then of course we have to remember that Councillor Bennett is the head of the same ESCC Transport and Environment Department which dreamt up the Bulverhythe bus lanes...