Sidmouth and Ottery car park grit claims fear

PUBLISHED: 18:00 23 September 2010

ICE RISK: Ottery's Brook Street car park in January

ICE RISK: Ottery's Brook Street car park in January

Archant

Car parks in Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary weren’t gritted to reduce the risk of users falling during a record cold snap in January- as council insurers feared victims had a better chance suing them if the safety measure WAS in place.

TAXPAYERS will be hit in the pocket by a bombardment of insurance claims if the district council acts to boost residents’ safety in icy car parks this winter, fear members.

The Herald revealed how car parks in Sidmouth and Ottery St Mary weren’t gritted to reduce the risk of users falling during freezing temperatures in January- as council nsurers feared victims had a better chance suing them if the safety measure WAS in place.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) said it would be “irresponsible” to put itself in a “potential multiple claim situation”, and the “risk” of walking or driving on snow and ice “should be clear to everyone.”

The matter was discussed by EDDC’s Overview and Scrutiny Co-ordinating Committee last week after Councillor Roger Giles asked the authority’s top brass to review its policy.

Mr Giles told committee members: “We have a duty to stop people from falling and hurting themselves.”

Others feared an onslaught of claims in a ‘litigation culture’ would outweigh the benefits of taking action.

“We could be wiped out,” warned Cllr Graham Liverton over potential insurance claims.

In a report EDDC corporate director Peter Jeffs revealed the council has a ‘duty of care’ for its car parks, housing community facilities, access paths, parks, play areas and offices, and could be held accountable for ‘failing to act with due diligence’.

However, treating areas would suggests acceptance of liability for the risk- and also leave the council open to legal action.

EDDC will decide whether to ignore the matter, agree an alternative policy, or put it on ice to wait for better national clarity.

Mr Jeffs told members the council’s approach to treating ice frost and snow should be “clearer”.

He told the council failing to adopt a clear policy could result in the authority being held responsible for ‘failing to act with due consideration’.

Mr Jeffs said the matter was a “tricky area” where risk needed to be balanced against the council’s reputation with customers. “There’s no magic bullet to this issue,” he said.


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