Time to end rule that deems doormats a fire hazard says Northampton councillor

Gareth Eales says rules which deem doormats a fire hazard in social housing needs to change. NNL-150117-192442001
Gareth Eales says rules which deem doormats a fire hazard in social housing needs to change. NNL-150117-192442001

An opposition councillor is calling for a “common sense” approach to health and safety rules in council properties, after tenants’ doormats were confiscated for blocking fire escapes.

Councillor Gareth Eales (Lab, Spencer) claims a number of his ward members have complained about items being removed from communal areas of apartment blocks for being a fire hazard.

Among them have been doormats, plant pots and even a lawnmower stored in a shed to keep the grass frontages neat, which he says are intended to make living areas more welcoming.

Next Monday, Councillor Eales will propose that Northampton Partnership Homes, which manages the council’s housing stock, can scale back its “overzealous” removal of such items, which has increased in recent months.

He said: “We are talking about functional items such as door mats or cosmetic items as plant pots, which are not really scary things.

“The blanket request to remove all such items is lacking in common-sense and could be argued to be counter-productive.

“Considering the distress these issues are causing some of our tenants and NBC’s remaining responsibility as the actual landlord, action must be taken that is both practical, fair and in true accordance with the appropriate Health & Safety legislation.”

In February the Chron reported how Peter Drinkwater had been told to remove his mobility scooter from the hallway of his Kingsthorpe property for being a fire hazard.

Councillor Eales will propose that a working group of senior officials at Northampton partnership homes and Northampton Borough Council can be set up to discuss the issue.

He said: “It may to some sound like a small issue, but it is a massive issue for some tenants.”

A spokeswoman for Northampton Partnership Homes, said: “We understand that our residents wish to make communal areas in blocks of flats homely however protecting the safety of our residents is our priority. The ongoing measures we are taking to reduce the risk of fire in our blocks are a result of legislation NPH is legally obliged to follow. Our fire officer has responded in person to tenants and leaseholders who have contacted us regarding our approach.

“We will continue to implement these precautions to reduce, as much as possible, the risk of life threatening incidents. Residents have had the opportunity to see examples of devastating fires that other housing providers have experienced, and if any of our residents would like to discuss their particular block with NPH, our fire safety officer Malcolm Burden can be contacted on 0300 330 7003.”