Hospital's great barrier grief
HOSPITAL chiefs have been ordered to stop using an illegal parking barrier amid fears it is causing potentially dangerous traffic jams on a nearby road.
The automatic ticket machine was installed without planning permission at the entrance to St John's Hospital in Livingston earlier this month, following an increase in parking charges.
It drew complaints from police, the public and even the Scottish Ambulance Service, after the queue of cars waiting to pass through it backed up on to Ladywell East Road.
Hospital bosses have been asked to stop using the barrier until a planning application is approved and may be told to remove it entirely if the application is turned down.
NHS Lothian insisted that the barrier, several metres down a slip road entrance to the hospital car park, had been installed on the understanding planning permission was not needed as it replaced an existing barrier. West Lothian Council has now written to NHS Lothian demanding the barrier be stopped operating, allowing traffic to flow smoothly into the car park.
The council has also insisted a clear sign be put up to tell drivers the barrier is not in operation, and asked NHS Lothian to submit a planning application.
Council leader Peter Johnston said: "It is a matter of regret that the hospital authorities have not followed proper procedures on this occasion.
"No one can be above the law. We have written to the health board pointing out that planning permission is needed for this hospital car park barrier system.
"We have also outlined complaints received from various sources about traffic congestion following recent changes to hospital parking arrangements.
"In view of the problems that have been caused we would sincerely hope that St John's Hospital will not operate this system until this situation has been resolved in the interests of road safety in the area."
The barrier and ticket machine were installed after it was agreed to change the 1 charge for use of the car park, with drivers now paying 1 for up to four hours or 2 for more than four hours.
John Jack, director of facilities for NHS Lothian, admitted there had been delays at the new ticket barrier but said action was taken to deal with the problem, which they said was caused by drivers being unused to the new system.
"We were surprised by the council's letter as we only installed the new ticket machine after we, albeit informally, sought planning advice," he said.
"However, we have now sought the advice of an independent planning consultant to clarify the situation for us.
"If planning permission is required, of course we will be approaching the council for it through the normal channels."
He added that money from the parking charges would go towards the "provision of safe car parking facilities" at the hospital.
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