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Thursday, May 23, 2024

War of words over car park bollard

A woman who said she was “ranted and raved at” by a councillor after she hit a “dangerous” bollard, leaving her car “smashed up”, is considering legal action against Sandbach Town Council.

Maggie Miller, who said she had “not had a scratch in more than 35 years of driving”, said she felt “disgusted” by comments made by town Coun Donal Hegarty who, she said, told her that she needed to “improve her driving”.

But Coun Hegarty argued that Mrs Miller was “abusive” to him on the phone and that “if somebody drives into a bollard, then perhaps they should look at their own driving”.

As previously reported by the “Chronicle”, a £165,000 refurbishment of the Small Common car park took place in July last year. But within two weeks of its re-opening in August, a bollard had been knocked over.

Speaking at the time, town Coun Dave Poole said: “It looks like it’s just been dumped where you wouldn’t expect it, so this doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s shoddy workmanship and whoever’s signed it off has made a pig’s ear of it.”

But Coun Hegarty, who chaired the council’s car park refurbishment sub-committee, responded: “The contractors make the judgement about where to put the bollards while on site. They’re the professionals, they know what’s best. The fault lies with the driver; there’s no need to hit a bollard.”

After driving into the metal post on 22nd December, Mrs Miller said: “The car is quite smashed up. I couldn’t see the post. My car is quite high, they’re tiny black bollards on black tarmac and it’s just sitting in the middle of nowhere.

“It’s a dangerous design and it should never have been like that. They should be illuminated. My husband is going to lose his no claims bonus, our insurance is going to shoot up and I don’t know how long I’ll be without a car until they fix it.”

Mrs Miller said she had tried to contact Coun Hegarty on Tuesday morning to ask if the town council would be able to compensate her for the damage.

She said: “He phoned me back and bit my head off. With that man’s attitude, he should not be a councillor.

“I’m disgusted by the way he spoke to me. He told me I needed to improve my driving. It was absolutely vile. I’m not going to let it go. I’m going to see my solicitor about it and report him to the monitoring officer.

“He didn’t even ask if I was okay. I don’t care if he’s the king of England, I’m not being spoken to like that for something that wasn’t even my fault.”

She explained that during the incident, a woman who saw what happened ran over to say that she had also hit the bollard on another occasion.

Coun Poole, who runs a towing and recovery business, said he too had hit the post: “I drive over 100,000 miles a year so for me of all people, it was embarrassing. They’re not in the right place, they are higgledy-piggledy; they’ve just been plonked in.

“I resigned from the committee because after seeing the plans, it was just a shambles. Nobody was raising any issues about it and I had to step in a few times to say there were things that didn’t make sense.

“Every time I look at the bollards there’s another bashed bit and these are older drivers hitting them, not kids. I don’t even know what they’re there for.”

Coun Hegarty told the “Chronicle” he had just returned from a wedding in Ireland the previous night and had four missed calls within two hours that morning.

He said: “I phoned her back, and she kept going on about how the car park was a bad design and that she wanted compensation and was going to get legal advice. She’s got an agenda where she’s got a damaged car.

“I’m not a rude person, but I will say what I think, and this was an attack on me as a town councillor.”

He explained that the council had been through the process of appointing a sub-committee to approve the design of the car park, which was then available for the public to comment on during council meetings.

He said: “I wasn’t doing anything apart from being bombarded with how bad the end product was. If she wants to project responsibility for her driving into a bollard onto us then that’s fine, but I don’t need to be subjected to that; I would say she was quite abusive to me.

“I said that if somebody drives into a bollard then perhaps I would suggest they look at their own driving; that probably didn’t enamour me to her.”

Referring to Coun Poole’s resignation from the sub-committee, Coun Hegarty said: “If you are interested in developing things, you should legitimately put your concerns to the sub-committee that you’re a part of, not resign and then become an armchair critic.”

A meeting was due to take place between Coun Poole, Coun Hegarty and town council chief officer Ceri Lloyd about concerns relating to the Small Common car park.

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