Axminster pensioner hurt by runaway car

“Miserly” council blamed for not spending on ice clearing

“TIGHT-FISTED” East Devon Council has been blamed for failing to clear ice from an Axminster car park where an elderly woman was seriously hurt.

Patricia Hellier, 75, suffered a broken pelvis when a driverless car slid across the snow and hit her.

It is understood the vehicle had been left properly parked with its handbrake on when it started to roll away on the slippery surface, before colliding with the pensioner. Friends say she could have been killed.

The accident happened in sloping West Street car park just days after town councillors called for it to be a priority for gritting.

Charity shop volunteer, Mrs Hellier, of nearby West Close, is currently recovering in Axminster Hospital.

This week Axminster town and district councillor Douglas Hull condemned EDDC for making huge profits from its car parks without putting anything back.

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He said: “They make money hand over fist - getting on for �1million last year – and it behoves them to use a little bit of the profits they make to make it safe for people.

“We would expect that charging �1 an hour they should be kept in a reasonable conditions.

“When you go to West Dorset or South Somerset you don’t pay as much. We are driving the trade away from local shops and for the rates they pay they deserve a decent comeback from EDDC.”

Mrs Hellier’s neighbour Michele Tupenny, 65, said: “I am disgusted. When you think of all this money they get from car parking.

It was so treacherous in there.

“I understand that the car parked up with four people in it and he put the brake on then went to get a ticket when the car just slid down and went into her. She could have been killed.”

“I am very upset about it. She is a lovely lady and she helps everyone.”

A spokesman for the district council said: ““We are sorry someone was injured by a vehicle in the West Street Car Park on 23 December. Sadly, it is just not practicable for EDDC to ensure that all car park users are safe at all times and in every circumstance. Even in areas that had been treated across the district there were still accidents. However, we will be looking into this incident to see if there are any lessons we can learn from it.

“EDDC does not have specialised snow and ice clearing equipment, nor extensive grit stocks, as we are not the Highway Authority. Due to the previous infrequent and short duration snow events the justification of public investment in such expensive provision is questionable, and the County Council’s resources were already stretched. Equally, we have few of our own vehicles. The few 4x4s we do have were prioritised to keeping essential services operational.

“The Council has 52 car parks and it was clearly impossible for us to treat all parts of all of them, especially when travelling between them was so difficult. By 23 December, the snow and ice had compacted. It was impossible to shift it with our equipment, and grit-salt has limited effect in such conditions.

“We had written to town and parish councils on 13 December asking them all to indicate which areas and car parks were the highest priority for attention in times of severe weather and the extent to which they could assist us. This feedback, which is still coming in, will be collated in a report that will be presented to Members so that EDDC can decide how much it should invest in tackling this infrequent problem and so that staff know which areas to concentrate on in icy weather in future.

“Whilst Axminster Town Council helpfully sent back their response before Christmas, we are still awaiting responses from many other councils and we are not able to assess additional necessary infrastructure, nor prioritise across the whole district until all the feedback is in.”