AT least 12 cars have been badly damaged or written off in the past five months by rising bollards at Racecourse Road in Newbury.
Newbury Racecourse is refusing to admit liability and says motorists are ignoring the warning signs, but furious motorists claim the bollards are faulty.
The bollards were installed next to the Rocking Horse Nursery, preventing access to and from the Stroud Green end of the development, although gym members and racecourse vehicles are allowed through.
Members of Nuffield Health have permission to access the gym via the bollards, which are meant to lower using automatic number plate recognition.
However, two gym members have contacted the Newbury Weekly News in the past week to complain that they had suffered injury or had their vehicles written off.
Vicky Lee, from Wash Common, was driving her BMW X5 out of the gym when a bollard hit her car.
She said: “The bollard came up with such force that I hit my head on the roof and was concussed. The impact also caused me to bite my tongue and the airbag to go off.
“I went to see a doctor and then had a CT scan, which confirmed I had swelling on the brain.
“Apparently, three weeks ago the bollards hit a car being driven by a pregnant woman and a security guard told me that mine had been the 12th incident since May 3.
“How many more people are going to be seriously hurt before something is done?”
Another Nuffield Health member, Clare Willsher, from Newbury, said: “The racecourse are trying to say it is driver error but we are registered members of the gym and my au pair, who was driving the car, was waved across by a security guard.
“The bollard came up as he was driving through and has caused £3,500 of damage to the engine and written my car off.
“There must be a problem with the bollards if it keeps happening to people.
“I have had to buy another car now so I can get to work and am having to rely on friends and family to get my children to school.
“And because the racecourse are disputing liability it hasn’t been resolved.”
Greenham district councillor Billy Drummond (Lib Dem) said: “I’ve heard the latest number [of incidents] is 12.
“It is private land and there is not a lot I can do apart from putting pressure on West Berkshire Council. I doubt the racecourse are going to do anything about it.
“I remember this used to happen in Bartholomew Street quite regularly years ago before they sorted the problem.”
A spokesman for Newbury Racecourse, Andy Clifton, said: “Newbury Racecourse is committed to fulfilling all of its obligations contained in the planning consent for the racecourse development.
“We share the frustration of residents that there have been a number of teething problems with the introduction of the bollards on Racecourse Road, in line with that planning approval, almost all of which have been caused by unauthorised vehicles trying to get through the bollards or drivers ignoring the traffic light system or the instructions of our traffic control staff in attendance.
“We are working hard with our suppliers to reduce the downtime to an absolute minimum.”
When asked whether there was a problem with the barriers or whether the racecourse accepted any liability, Mr Clifton declined to comment.
A message to members in the Nuffield Health gym reads: “The new ‘automatic’ bollards at the racecourse entrance are still not working as they should.
“Not a direct responsibility of the gym but still frustrating at times.
“Following significant teething problems with the initial bollard instillation, the racecourse are now undertaking upgrades to a much higher specification.
“They are also moving the sensors to ensure that the number plate recognition functions properly.
“The work is continuing on this and once the system has been properly tested the bollards will go live. All existing car registration details will be moved to the new system.
“To avoid delays once the bollards are operational, please keep your membership card to hand when driving in.”
The issue was due to be discussed at a Greenham Parish Council meeting last night (Wednesday).
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