COMMENT: It’s time our council erased this car park’s tragic reputation

JPCT 20-07-12 S12290175X Swan Walk car park, Samaritans sign -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT 20-07-12 S12290175X Swan Walk car park, Samaritans sign -photo by Steve Cobb

By editor-in-chief Gary Shipton

On Wednesday March 27, as this week’s edition of the County Times was going to press, another man fell from Swan Walk car park.

Yesterday, his condition was described as very serious.

I hope and pray that he recovers from his ordeal.

With tragic irony, as the latest scene unfolded in the town centre, just across Horsham Park an inquest was being held into the unrelated death of a Billingshurst woman who fell from the same spot in January.

The coroner recorded that she took her own life.

There have been too many falls from this car park in recent years.

We do not know the cause of this latest one but all too many of the incidents have been suicides or attempts at the same.

It really is time for action.

The car park is the responsibility of Horsham District Council and not the shopping centre.

So why has our local authority taken so long to put the type of safety barrier and netting in place that might just reduce the death toll?

It’s true that some actions have been implemented in the past and I know much consideration given.

And don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe in the nanny state.

You cannot prevent all accidents and tragedies and if someone is determined to take their own life in the end they are likely to prevail.

Constantly blaming public bodies for matters outside their control is irresponsible.

But we should not rule out any options if they would prevent accidents and might just make it difficult enough for someone minded to jump to think again.

Eight months ago a Horsham young woman fell from this place.

She has spent the intervening time in a wheel chair because she survived.

A few weeks ago she took her first tentative steps.

Her mother has been brutally forthright in her comments.

Catrina Ransom, 40, from Horsham, said this week it was vital more precautions were taken. “The council is happy to spend money putting on these poxy Ferrari shows but they’re not prepared to make the town safe. They can put on big events for the Queen and the Olympics, but we can’t protect our own.

“It makes me sick and it makes me angry and it makes me wonder what we pay tax for.”

Her main concern is that ‘one day it’s going to be a child’.

“The mum’s going to be putting her shopping away in the car and the child will lean over the edge and fall,” she said.

The mother branded the car park ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

“I just thank my lucky stars that my daughter’s recovering. The past eight months have been hell. It’s the families I feel sorry for because I have lived it, breathed it, eaten it and drank it - it’s every family’s worst nightmare.”

As a newspaper editor I always hesitate and think carefully before giving too much coverage to a fall at Swan Walk. The ramifications of too much publicity can be enormously painful for the friends and families concerned.

More than that, one does not want to encourage a trend of further suicide attempts.

But the public has a right to know of the continued and all too frequent falls from this car park.

Knowledge is power.

And the community through our elected representatives should use that power to explore every way of putting in place measures to end the nightmare for so many.

Collectively, as a community, we look to Horsham District Council to do all that is possible to erase the reputation that Swan Walk has gained of being a place not where people journey to park and shop but where in a few tragic examples they choose to go to die.