A number of garages in Stevenage and the surrounding areas have spoken out over the "accident hotspot" that is the multistorey car park at Lister Hospital.

Their comments follow two previous Comet stories on the issue, in which we heard about 50 incidents where people have damaged their cars in the "badly designed" building.

We contacted a number of local garages to get their take on the scale of the problem.

Some preferred not to speak to us, but others were more forthcoming in giving an insight - despite knowing that they may lose business if anything is done to alter the car park.

These garages told us about how many drivers come to them after damaging their cars in the multistorey, revealing the true extent of the issue.

Dean, who owns Lucas Car Body Repairs in Letchworth, told the Comet that he has worked on "hundreds and hundreds" of cars that were damaged in the car park.

He estimates that he gets at least one car every week coming to see him after being damaged in the car park, and has never heard of any other multistorey car park in the area causing similar problems.

He adds: "When they come here, even before they tell me I know exactly where they've been and how it's happened.


Dean has been to Lister himself to look at the problem, and thinks that it is caused by a combination of lack of visibility, "tight turns", and queues of traffic that make it difficult or impossible for drivers to reverse or manoeuvre into a better position.

He concludes: "It needs to be sorted."

Craig, from Spray Plan in Stevenage, has been repairing cars for 22 years and running his business for 10.

He says that in the last decade he has "lost count" of the number of cars he's worked on that have been damaged in the car park, with "four or five" coming from there during this year alone.

He adds that, during his time in business, he has never - to the best of his knowledge - worked on another car that was damaged in a multistorey car park.

Craig thinks it's "definitely an issue", and says that the car park has been "horrendous for accidents" ever since it was built in 2011.

"There's definitely a design flaw with that car park."

Meanwhile, Dave, from Dynamite Auto Body Works in Stevenage, told us that his "small workshop" has already repaired cars for 10 customers this year who had damaged them in the car park. He thinks it is probable that accidents happen in the car park "at least once every other day".

Dave says that most of the repairs he does following incidents at the garage cost customers between £500 and £1,500 - with costs rising above that range if, for example, a door needs replacing.

"It's definitely something that needs to be addressed."

He thinks that changes to the multistorey to alleviate the problem would be relatively simple, but adds: "I know what's going to happen, it'll be, 'well, somebody's got to pay for it'.

"But at the moment, it's your patients who are paying for it.

"It's costing a lot of people a lot of money to get their cars fixed."

He points out that given the people who are often at the hospital, a lot of the repair work is from older people who are "having to fork out for the repair work from their pensions".

"You feel for them."

Dave isn't aware of any other multistorey car parks that frequently cause problems, and, like other repairers we spoke to, says that he can often tell where people have sustained the damage to their car even before they've told him.

He's suggested to customers previously that they should complain to the hospital, in the hope that something will be done to resolve the problem.

A spokesperson for Wilbury Bodyshop, MOT and Service Centre in Hitchin told us that they also get "loads" of business from the Lister multistorey, and estimated that one in 10 of their repair jobs come from there.

The Comet: We've heard about fifty incidents where drivers have damaged their cars within the multistorey car park at Lister Hospital.We've heard about fifty incidents where drivers have damaged their cars within the multistorey car park at Lister Hospital. (Image: Picture supplied)

We also spoke to somebody from Alexandra Accident Repair Centre in Hitchin, an approved garage for insurers with most of their work coming to them via that route.

They told us: "We have had lots of people come here for advice moving forward after damaging their car there.

"It's never cheap damage incurred from it, it's always costly.

"It's built so incorrectly, and so narrowly, you get stuck on there and you cause even more damage trying to remove yourself."

Fix Auto Stevenage told us that, since the car park opened, they have been repairing three or four vehicles per month that were damaged within it.

And a spokesperson for another local body shop - who preferred to remain anonymous - described the car park as an "accident hotspot". They reckoned that in an average month they get two or three cars that have been damaged there.

"It's become so obvious when a car comes in, they don't even have to say ... it's a terrible design, in this day and age, to have such a small gangway in and out of the place

"They're doing quite a lot of damage when they catch their cars on the high kerbs on there, it's usually quite expensive to repair."

The multistorey car park at Lister opened on September 2, 2011, and was constructed as part of a private finance initiative (PFI) in cooperation with Saba, who were then known as VINCI Park.

They changed their name to Indigo Park in 2015, before rebranding again to become Saba.

The PFI contract was given to VINCI Park in June 2010, to design, build, finance and operate the new building.

VINCI Park paid the full £7.9m cost of constructing the new car park, and were granted a 30-year lease - meaning it will expire in 2040 or 2041.

We asked East and North Herts NHS Trust, which runs Lister, whether they accept that the design of the car park contributes to the number of cars damaged within it and has a negative impact on patient experience.

In response, a spokesperson said: “In the last year, over 413,000 vehicles have parked in the multi-storey car park at Lister, and while we appreciate how stressful and expensive car damage can be, we believe that the Trust has only received nine complaints about parking since 2016.

“The car park is operated by Saba Parking who are an international parking company with over 300 parking areas across the UK, and the car park meets with all relevant regulations.

“We’re aware that many newer cars are bigger and people who drive larger vehicles may find it more difficult to use our multistorey car park.

"We are having ongoing discussions with Saba to implement further improvements to the car park.”