Hung out to dry! Woman is banned from using washing line by Norwich City Council officers

Margaret Jowsey has been told she is not allowed to dry her washing outside her Sleaford Green, Norwich flat as it is a 'fire or trip hazard'.
Photo by Simon Finlay. Margaret Jowsey has been told she is not allowed to dry her washing outside her Sleaford Green, Norwich flat as it is a 'fire or trip hazard'. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014
11:15 AM

A 70-year-old woman feels she has been hung out to dry - as council officers have banned her from using her washing line.

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Norwich City Council sent a letter to resident Margaret Jowsey telling her that her washing line was a fire hazard and a trip hazard.Norwich City Council sent a letter to resident Margaret Jowsey telling her that her washing line was a fire hazard and a trip hazard.

Margaret Jowsey, of Sleaford Green, Norwich, said she has had a laundry line in the stairwell outside her top floor flat since she moved in 25 years ago and has never had any trouble.

But in a move she finds baffling, council bosses have ordered her to stop.

Officers at Norwich City Council claim the damp clothes are a fire hazard and fear somebody could trip over the washing line in the event of a fire.

A letter, put through her door last week, said: “Clear communal areas are also necessary to enable repairs and maintenance.

Margaret Jowsey has been told she is not allowed to dry her washing outside her Sleaford Green, Norwich flat as it is a 'fire or trip hazard'.
Photo by Simon Finlay.Margaret Jowsey has been told she is not allowed to dry her washing outside her Sleaford Green, Norwich flat as it is a 'fire or trip hazard'. Photo by Simon Finlay.

“As a landlord we try to work with our residents to minimise this risk”.

Ms Jowsey said: “They just put a threatening letter through the door.

“I’m on a low income so I can’t afford to go to the laundrette and I don’t have room for a tumble dryer.”

Ms Jowsey works three nights a week as a carer and said her own work involves health and safety.

A blooming odd decision

An award-winning gardener was last year told that her pot plants were a health and safety hazard and must be removed.

Council officers ordered Kerry Annison to remove her plants from a balcony which leads up to her former council flat in Norwich.

It happened months after she had been presented with a prize for them by the city’s Lord Mayor.

Council bosses said the area she has turned into a garden should be communal and that the gates, plants and pots could cause problems if people need to get out in a fire.

Speaking at the time, Ms Annison said: “I am horrified at being told I`d have to dismantle my haven for nature after quarter a century.”

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said they had to “ensure all communal areas are safe”.

But she feels that a washing line ban is a “stretch” beyond common sense.

“You could say there should be a sprinkler on the stairs,” she explained. “The postman has never hung himself up on our washing line, and when workmen come they’ve never had a problem.

“What’s this then? It’s a bit of power.”

She has lived in the second-storey council flat, for which she pays rent, since 1989.

Her flat does not have a balcony where she could put a washing line, and she does not want to dry her washing indoors for fear of mildew.

She has vowed to keep her washing line up, and has written to the city council.

“If they fine me I hope something can be done about it,” she said.

Her son Lawrence, 43, who also lives in the flat, said he is looking to start a petition.

“Sometimes you have to stand up for something you believe in,” he said. “That’s a laundry line.

“This ban is going against our human rights.”

Brenda Arthur, leader of Norwich City Council, said: “We are very happy to talk to Ms Jowsey about her concerns.

“We want to talk to residents and work with them to find alternative ways to accommodate their needs.

“Separately to this, I know Cllr [Bert] Bremner as the cabinet member for housing, has asked officers to carry out an immediate review on the use of communal areas to ensure that a common sense approach prevails”.

38 comments

  • “..This ban is going against our human rights...” I'm glad that's the only thing that keeps them up at night. It's a big worls out there, get some perspective. On a practical note, clothes horse, bathroom, window open, done.

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    frank young

    Friday, July 4, 2014

  • NCC made my life hell in Tippett Close Bowthorpe.

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    Footyboy16

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

  • Try living in Tippett Close in Bowthorpe, we did and NCC made our lives hell, because they filled the rest of the properties with caravan dwellers we complained about the rubbish and horse poo and the council said we were racist. and it would affect our tenancy agreement.

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    Footyboy16

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

  • It's like a scene from Dumb and Dumber. I'm sure the council came up with alternatives for this woman?......

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    Parsnip

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

  • She can always give up her tenancy agreement if she doesn't like the terms - it's her choice.

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    Cyril the Canary

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

  • Che Bramley, A parrot can imitate, it doesn't mean it knows what it's saying.

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    mr mayhem

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Onyx26.You've nailed it,a case of the tail wagging the dog.Gentrification I think it's called.

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    Peter Watson

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • I agree with the council , how skanky to be greeted with washing on the landing , it might be a top floor but if she gets away with it , who says other residents on lower floors can't then do it ,and if there was a fire (all this compostable material blocking the stairwell. --- I suggest the resident get a tumble dryer

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    Norwich

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Most of the comments here are just plain ignorant to how these flats are laid out. Many, including this one, have a set of stair that lead only to the entrance hall for that flat. There's plenty of room out there, but it's still classified as 'communal', so you can't leave anything out. Most flats have a private balcony on the side, but the smaller ones don't. Generally they have a bigger landing area to make up for it though. When you live in a small flat that's valuable space! Drying washing in the flat is a no-no because they're all damp enough as it is. And no one in their right mind would hang their washing up out in the grounds (not that there is any communal drying area where I live). What's only hinted at here in the closing paragraphs is that the council have just put out a massive tender to repaint all the wooden surfaces around the flats: something the residents have no choice but to pay for, even if you have double glazing and therefore very little wood to paint. This is the reason why they're now going around making sure all the communal areas are clear. Why can't they be honest and say that rather than talking about health and safety reasons!? I too live in a similar flat (leaseholder) and we have a large landing area that is completely private to us, but we still got one of these letters. Our crimes? A bike attached to the railings that could only get in the way if you were planning to dive through the glass windows, and a recycling box. They way they've gone about this is totally wrong and I applaud this woman for at least having a go at standing up to them. She won't win though - it's all in the tenancy agreement.

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    Onyx26

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • This lady lives in a TOP FLOOR FLAT, she has one nieghbour on the same floor who is NOT complaining yet the council are, who else can see it?, if the council can't provide her with an area to dry washing then she should carry on as normal and tell the corrupt council to take a hike.

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    mr mayhem

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • It is pretty clear that the people who designed this form of 6 flat block housing in the middle part of the last century were men.Try going up and down 2 flights of stairs to hang your washing out.The washing areas are open plan anyway,increasing the risk of theft from any drying washing.All I can say is that Margaret has come with a creative solution to a problem that has been built-in by the design of the building.We need more women architects!

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    Peter Watson

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • So nobody has heard of a clothes horse here, including both Ms Jowsey and the clipboard Nazis?

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    Iceni_Duck

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Could you imagine sharing a landing and this is the first thing you see when you open your door...or see when you get home ..

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    Andy T

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Some pretty spiteful comments on here. That washing isn't even in a 'communal' space, its in front of her own front door so doesn't affect anyone else but her, and as for 'trip hazard', is that seriously the best excuse they could come up with? Health and safety and or jobsworth gone mad

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    Linda Sinclair

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • "This ban is going against our human rights.” Hilarious statement....Next they will be threatening to "speak to their solicitor"...or MEP....Strasbourg here we come....brilliant. Seriously though, I suspect that this has all come about because someone has complained. Lets face it, wet washing on a line in a stairwell isnt exactly very attractive - very African Townshipesque.... So, possibly a neighbour has complained to the council who as usual go from a completely wrong angle and throw good ol "elf n safety" up as a reason. Frankly they should just remind her that somewhere in her lease agreement there will be an expectation that the lease holder behaves in a "tenant like manner". That means keeping the place looking tidy. Not exactly unreasonable is it?

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    Tootyfrooty

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Mr Mayhem said the following Norwich city council in their wisdom have also shown up throwing their weight about in my area, they also consider plant pots as a fire risk, the fact that they can't even see to the maintenance of their properties but can harass tenants in this way should be enough to encourage people to ignore them. Norwich city council should be shown for what they are, money grabbing, pedantic, inefficient and generally bent. And they love Mrs Brown Envelopes

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    che bramley

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • I didn’t know that people in council housing had carpets!

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    Voice of Reason

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Whilst I sympathise with the lady that it must be frustrating to not have anywhere outside to dry clothes, I can see why the council would ban washing being hung in stairwells and any other decoration or equipment being placed there. She might be considerate in her behaviour and not a nuisance but a lot of people would be. Either you have a total ban on items in stairwells or a free-for-all - I can imagine how that would end up.

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    Cyril the Canary

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Next the council will ban you from having carpets, any electrical items, any wooden items (including shelving and doors and their frames), sofas and bed because they are all flammable - AND you wont be able to cook in your own place!!! How pathetic they are!!! Yet again someone trying to justify the existence of their unworthy job role!

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    Grumbly Ol' Git

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • This story was all going well until they came out with the "human rights" card - what's that got to do with it?

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    crunchy dick

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • che bramley, your humour is dryer than usual... Take the washing in. Looks like a gypsy site..

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    Andy T

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Disgraceful. Mrs J shouldn't air her dirty laundry in public.

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    Anglianjacky

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Norwich city council in their wisdom have also shown up throwing their weight about in my area, they also consider plant pots as a fire risk, the fact that they can't even see to the maintenance of their properties but can harass tenants in this way should be enough to encourage people to ignore them. Norwich city council should be shown for what they are, money grabbing, pedantic, inefficient and generally bent.

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    mr mayhem

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • People in the Norwich City Council think we can all afford tumble dryers. I am trying to think of a positive Spin on this story but my imagination is failing me so far.

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    che bramley

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Fire exits must be kept clear at all times, this means no exceptions on washing day. The laundry is not the fire hazard, its presence is. Hardly a news story though.

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    KeithS

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • How on earth are you going to trip over a washing line? Walk on the ceiling? She is on the top floor,how many people walk past? I bet all the people agreeing with the council can afford tumble driers or have outside spaces .council jobsworths need to live in the real world

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    Reader

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • The rent will be calculated to include an element for the communal area. It looks like it's only affecting her access and nobody else's.............................It's conkers bonkers Norwich all over again. Damp washing a fire hazard? You couldn't make it up...Lol..... No wonder H&S has such a bad name if it's being used for such trivial purposes!

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    marty r

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Typical of an umimagantive labour city council, we should all be saving electricity and drying our washing in the open air where possible, countries such as Italy are known for hanging washing across courtyards and common areas, suspect it is more elf and safety gone mad

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    blister

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Time to bring out an old TV classic from years ago, with the Panel consisting of Norwich City Council Inspectors and those at the top. There would need to be a slight change in the quiz show title though. Whos Line Is It Anyway?

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    che bramley

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Norwich City Council are pathetic. They have far more important things to do, and if she has had no problem for over 25 years then why have they started to hound her now. Knowing this Council she might be behind with her rent or council tax, cause then those at the top of NCC start to find ways of nit picking at the most trivial things. Sometime certain people in City Hall need to be washed and hung on a line to dry or from my past experiences they shoung just be simply hung and not from a washing line either !

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    che bramley

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • The Council are being over protective, they have banned lots of things in flats, hanging baskets, carpets on the floor outside front door always blaming it on a fire hazard, hanging washing looks unsightly, but not a fire hazard

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    Derek McDonald

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • My computer is clearly playing up...I could have sworn I clicked on "EDP" but it appears I have been taken to the Daily Mail site instead...it couldn't possibly be yet another example of lazy journalism on the part of the EDP surely??

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    merrydancer

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Think I have to agree with the council on this one, its not very nice for others using the stair well having to dodge her washing! Although I do feel for this lady if she has no other way of drying her laundry.

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    Lynda

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • What is wrong with you people? Are you really that bothered about one old lady and her washing line? All sounds a bit pedantic.

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    Piranha24

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • NROO: 'They have to draw a line somewhere' - puntastic...

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    Captain_Arroganto

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Can the squaw not hang it up inside her house,like everybody else. Standards please

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    PaulH

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • The question here is very simple – does she pay rent for the area outside her flat, as well as the property itself? If, as I strongly expect, she doesn’t – then she needs to remove the offending items PDQ. Unless she is using this publicity to get the tax payer to build her a balcony or buy her a tumble dryer!

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    Norfolk John

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

  • Sounds like a neighbour has been kicking up a fuss. You can see where the council are coming from - they have to draw a line somewhere. What if every resident in a block decided to hang their washing in the stairwells?

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    NROO

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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