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Council orders pensioners to take down "dangerous" plastic flowers


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Council orders pensioners to take down plastic flowers - because they are health and safety risk


By Andy Dolan

Last updated at 5:07 PM on 20th June 2008



For two decades they have provided a welcome dash of colour for the residents of Tonbridge House.

Indeed, such was their success in brightening up the high-rise tower block's corridors that council officials even featured the tubs of plastic flowers in the authority's own magazine.

But elderly residents in the sheltered accommodation block told of their anger today after the same authority branded the flowers a safety risk - and ordered their removal.


Enlarge article-1028008-01AFAB9300000578-580_468x286.jpg Bernard and Maureen Towner are among pensioners that have been threatened with legal action if they don't remove plastic flowers from the hallways of their home



Residents who fail to comply with the order to empty the corridors of the £65-a-week flats face possible legal action ending in eviction by landlords Croydon Council.

At least one resident is believed to have been displaying flowers for as long as 40 years, without incident.

Resident Bernard Towner, 65, said:'The wording of the letter was so aggressive - we might have been a bit more understanding if someone had come to speak to us but this was the first warning we got.

'It’s ridiculous really - I was talking to one lady who said she has had her flowers there since she moved in 40 years ago.'


Bill Ramsey, who has lived in the high-rise block for 11 years, said: 'This is a complete disgrace - we are being treated like criminals.

'We only put them up to cheer the place up a bit and the council even said they liked them at first - so much so that we have been featured in its own newsletter.

'I have had flowers up against the wall outside my door for nine years and nobody has ever tripped over them, or come close to doing so.

Enlarge article-1028008-01AFAAD400000578-508_233x328.jpg The notice issued by Croydon council


'It's all very confusing. How can plastic flowers be considered a health and safety risk?'

Mr Ramsey, 75, said the council's quarterly Open House newsletter had carried articles on the residents' floral displays in 2006 and again in February, praising them for brightening up their surroundings.

He has spent £125 on his flowers, arranged in eight small pots. He said some residents have been displaying fake flowers in their corridors for as long as 20 years.

A council tenancy officer ordered their removal after visiting Tonbridge House last week. Posters were put up demanding the corridors were cleared due to health and safety fears.

The worker said the residents were in breach of their tenancy agreements and that their flower pots and trinkets were a fire hazard.

The official wrote on the poster: 'During a recent inspection it was noted there are a number of furniture items and plastic plants in the communal hallway.

'This poses a great health and safety risk in the event of a fire. This must stop.

'Failure to adhere to this notice may result in legal action.'

Laura Fetherstone, 79, set up her arrangement of imitation flowers when she moved to the accommodation four years ago.

But she said she had been so worried by the letter that she has already scrapped her display of imitation flowers, arranged on a small brass table and in flower pots along the corridor, also placed against the wall.

'The place is morbid now without them', she said. 'But I couldn't risk being evicted by keeping them. The letter didn't say explicitly that that would follow, but it was very threatening.

'Now when friends come to visit, the first thing they ask me is 'Where have the flowers gone?''.

Fellow resident Hazel Blaquiere, 68, added: 'For some people the flowers are the only bit of brightness and cheer they get.

'Many of the residents here are very old and don't get out much.'

A spokesman for Croydon Council said: 'While the wording of the notice is on the formal side, we need to get across the serious nature of the request.

'Communal areas are the means of escape in an emergency.

'If an evacuation were required, possibly at night when tenants could be confused, then clearly any obstruction could get in the way of people trying to leave the building quickly.'

The flowers are just the latest in a long line of objects ranging from conkers to coffins which have been branded health and safety risks.

Three years ago, Somerset County Council ordered the removal of a floral display outside the Ring of Bells pub in Norton Fitzwarren after ruling the flower tubs were 'too big' for the pavement.

The authority also claimed the pub's hanging baskets were too low, threatening pedestrian safety.

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