A shopper has vowed not to return to a Wiltshire town centre after a row erupted over broken parking machines.

Chris Burfoot, who lives on the Pewsham estate in Chippenham, drove to the Emery Gate car park to visit his optician on September 18.

But the trip was derailed when it took him 15 minutes to pay for parking over the phone, due to broken parking machines, while others without phones were “visibly distressed” at the situation.

A post about his experience on Facebook received nearly 300 reactions and Mr Burfoot has now told this paper he and his wife will no longer be visiting the town centre in their cars, and will instead venture to towns with free parking like Corsham and Yate.

He said: “It was absolutely ridiculous. It made me late for my appointment but there were others who were very upset because they had no means to pay.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The out of order sign on the machineThe out of order sign on the machine (Image: Newsquest)“It’s happened multiple times and people don’t know what to do, the car park was half empty because people were seeing the machine was out of order and driving off, so it must be affecting the town.

“I certainly won’t go into town unless I absolutely have to, on principal, and I know others feel the same, it’s a huge problem.”

While the parking machines in Emery Gate were quickly fixed, an out-of-order sign remained on one of the machines, causing confusion.

There have also been issues with machines in the Bath Road and Sadlers Mead car parks in recent weeks.

Cllr Richard Clewer, leader of Wiltshire Council, said, “Our parking enforcement teams will continually monitor machines throughout the day to ensure they are working, and will respond accordingly if faults arise.

“Parking machines will inevitably sometimes experience issues such as coin jams, vandalism, power supply issues, however they are generally reliable. 

“If people come across a machine that is not working correctly, we would encourage them to report by contacting parkingservices@wiltshire.gov.uk so that we can arrange for engineers to visit, assess and fix or report as necessary.”

He added that motorists can pay for parking via the MI Permit App, or by text.

The council is investing £380,000 in updating car parking machines across the county to ensure customers can “continue to pay by cash or contactless”, with tariffs remaining the same whatever method is used.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: A machine that was out of order last month in Bath Road car parkA machine that was out of order last month in Bath Road car park (Image: Newsquest)But Mr Burfoot believes there should be free parking made available for shoppers using the town centre to draw more motorists in.

Chippenham Town Council confirmed there are currently no plans to enter into a funding agreement with Wiltshire Council to provide free parking in any of the town’s car parks.

Cllr Matthew Short explained that the huge costs of subsidising free parking made it “hard to justify”.

Cllr Ross Henning added that any such scheme could add up to “tens of thousands of pounds.”

Mr Burfoot and his wife are both blue badge holders and also took aim at the lack of free parking for those with disabilities.

He added: “What good is an extra hour when we can’t spend hours out in town? Other towns have free parking for disabled people and others.

“It makes life very difficult and we do a lot of shopping online because it’s so expensive just to go in to pick up groceries.”

Cllr Caroline Thomas, cabinet member for transport, said: “Wiltshire Council recognises the additional difficulties Blue badge holders have which is why in August we introduced a one-hour grace period, allowing an extra hour free on parking tickets purchased in council-run car parks.

“In addition to our car parks, there are lots of on-street parking bays which Blue Badge holders can park in free of charge for any length of time.”