A YORKSHIRE Coast Homes boss faced angry tenants who have been told they must remove decorative features outside their homes.
Mike Randall, head of housing services, attended a packed meeting of Castle Ward Tenants’ and Residents’ Association in an attempt to explain the policy.
Many residents were dismayed when they were told that all items, including pictures, pot plants and welcome mats, must be removed on the grounds of health and safety from communal areas outside their homes.
“There was a very serious fire in London where there were a number of fatalities,” Mr Randall said.
“We carried out a risk assessment and it was decided that all communal areas must be free of furnishings, possessions or any items which could be deemed as possible hazards.”
Mr Randall said that inspections will be carried out in the coming weeks, and that while compromises would be reached where possible, they would not be able to be made in all cases.
“The bottom line is that these areas are to be free of items,” he said. “In effect, they will be sterile areas which are far less inviting than residents have made them.
“We do want to discuss what we find when we carry out inspections and we will look to see if there are other areas which the items can be transferred to.
“We do appreciate that is not the same and there will not be a solution to every eventuality.
“We know people have tried to beautify their properties and we are doing this with sadness to some extent, but we are saying that the health and safety of tenants, their visitors and the fire service is paramount.”
While residents welcomed Mr Randall’s pledge to try to find compromises where possible, they questioned the need for the introduction of the policy in the first place.
One said: “We have a next door neighbour who is 102 and she doesn’t have any problems with items outside her home.
“I understand health and safety is a big issue these days but when you have a 102-year-old who loves smelling her flowers, putting them three flights down the stairs is a bit mean.”
Another resident said: “It seems harsh. People have been encouraged by Yorkshire Coast Homes to grow plants in the past, then this comes in halfway through the growing season.”
Another said: “The blanket applying of these rules seems ridiculous.”
The four week grace period which residents had to remove items has expired, and inspections by Yorkshire Coast Homes housing officers will be completed over the course of the next two to three months.
Mr Randall said that the inspections would be carried out with common sense and sensitivity and that issues will be discussed with tenants before any action is taken.
Cllr Janet Jefferson, chairman of Castle Ward Tenants’ and Residents’ Association, said “Hopefully lessons will be learned from this. We agree there is going to be some sort of compromise and we welcome that.”
Graham Casper, a fire safety inspector, also attended the meeting on Tuesday.
He said: “It’s quite right that if it’s a means of escape it should be a sterile area. We probably wouldn’t disagree with Mike’s risk assessment.”