SEVERAL years ago South Lakeland District Council decided to replace old parking charge machines with new models with keyboards with which a car's registration number had to be entered, rendering each ticket non-transferable. I remember that protest was immediate and vigorous.

We were astonished to find that entering a number '0' instead of the capital letter 'O' was, literally, a capital offence.

Like most I found the process tedious and time consuming, and thought that, come the winter, I would become seriously brassed off with dancing attendance on a brainless machine.

How a simple process of paying an agreed sum for a fixed parking period could be made so complicated was amazing. Eventually SLDC had an access of common sense and keyboards were removed and the machines were restored to simple dumb ticket issuing points, which was all that was required.

All was well for a few years, until July last year, when I found that Marks and Spencer's car park in Kendal had suddenly sprouted a machine requiring the car registration to be entered.

I can never remember the number accurately and had to cut the process short and return to the car. Then I found that the keyboard was alphabetic, which was surprisingly difficult to use for someone used to a QUERTY keyboard. For those who do not use keyboards either arrangement is confusing and time consuming and a close relative was reduced to tears with it a few days ago.

In July I immediately complained to the store management and followed this up with letters to the Kendal store and the M&S chief executive.

Quick and polite responses explained that, as M&S rented the store and the car park, they had no say in how the parking charges were controlled. I was thankful for the explanation but did think M&S was shying away from using its commercial power to address local concerns. In effect, a shrug of the M&S shoulders.

It was explained that parking was controlled by Euro Car Parks, of 30 Dorset Square, London, NW1 6QJ and suggested I should write to them. I did so, and six months on I have yet to receive a reply.

We are stuck with a well known retailer associated with a service provider with no interest in local conditions. We can now visit out-of-town supermarkets with free parking. M&S is no longer the dominant presence it once was.

Now I am reluctant to return to M&S and fiddle with a tyrannical machine. If I can't park at Booth's I don't stay. Others are of a similar mind.

One wonders what the affect of the removal of M&S might do to Elephant Yard.

Could local sentiment put an end to this irritant? Why should one car park be the only one in step?

A. Ian Hale