The council has apologised for an ‘unacceptable’ delay which left ‘infuriated’ drivers trapped in one of its car parks in Horsham last weekend.
Horsham District Council said it was ‘very sorry’ and was ‘looking into’ the incident which left motorists parked in the Forum car park, in Blackhorse Way, trapped for almost an hour last Sunday.
Drivers were unable to leave the car park due to the barriers not being lifted and the pay machines being out of order. They were also unhappy with the customer service they received after calling the council’s emergency helpline.
A council representative said: “Parking is free in our town centre car parks every Sunday and, as a consequence, car parks are not manned. There was a problem with the barrier as it should have lifted automatically when cars exit.
“We are very sorry that this was not the case and we are still looking into what happened.
“The customer called the out of office number and the barriers were opened remotely. We accept that the delay was unacceptable, and we have already put in place improvements to our processes to ensure that this does not happen again.
“We apologise that the customer felt that they did not receive the level of customer service that they expected.”
Kerri Hawkins and her husband Mark, both from Horsham, spent their Sunday morning sitting in their car waiting for the barriers to open.
Kerri said: “It was infuriating, it was the last thing I wanted on a Sunday morning.
“I could have walked home and back again in the time it took them to lift it. I was not impressed at all .”
The pair had parked their vehicle in the car park the night before so they could go out and enjoy a drink with the plan of picking the car up the next day.
Kerri said it was something they had done before since the new Smart Park system had been installed and she had no worries about coming to collect it.
“After spending an hour walking round the town with my dogs in the rain, I went to retrieve my car at 9.50am and tried to pay for the parking charge,” she said
“The machine had a big ‘no entry’ symbol on the screen and a note saying ‘Sorry, this machine is temporarily out of service’.
“I also tried to pay on the other levels but all the machines were out of service so I tried to leave the car park, thinking the barriers would rise as they had last week.
“This did not happen. I tried pressing the help button at the barrier but this just rang without any answer. The same happened when trying the help button on the pay machine.”
After failing to get help Kerri and her trapped companions called the emergency helpline where she said they were told it was being sorted.
However, on many occasions she explained they could not get through to speak to someone and they were unhappy with the level of customer service they received.
Kerri added: “Finally, after an hour of being in a very cold, damp car park unable to leave, the barriers magically raised at 10.55am and we were able to leave.
“I was the only one there from Horsham so it does not look good on the town at all.”