‘Potty’ decisions spark revised rules at thousands of Norwich homes

Heathgate residents Bob Whitmore and Steve Barber with the planters secured to railings that Norwich

Heathgate residents Bob Whitmore and Steve Barber with the planters secured to railings that Norwich Council initially told them to remove. The council later said the planters could stay. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

Revised rules have been drawn up over what thousands of Norwich council flat tenants can place in communal areas, after a string of controversial decisions.

Officers at Norwich City Council have, in recent months, faced accusations of being heavy-handed after a number of tenants were ordered to remove items from communal areas in flats.

Last year, Kerry Annison, whose flowers have won Norwich In Bloom awards, was told the plant-pots in her Devonshire Street were a fire hazard.

Steve Barber of Heathgate, said a council officer told him that the plant tubs, which are less than a metre from the ground, could hurt somebody if they came loose from railings outside his ground floor flat.

And Margaret Jowsey, of Sleaford Green, was ordered to remove a washing line in a communal area which was deemed to be a fire hazard.

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In the wake of such incidents, and a blaze which broke out in Markham Tower in Mile Cross three years ago, the council has reviewed what will and will not be permitted in communal areas at the council's flats.

A risk review across the council's 16,000 plus properties, has seen communal areas graded as high risk, medium risk or low risk. The grade given to areas determines what, if anything, can be kept in communal areas.

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High risk areas, including all of the city council's tower blocks, must have no items at all in communal areas, corridors or on stairs and stairwells. Sixty-six areas have been assessed as high risk.

Flats and maisonettes up to and including three floors, and open walkways above three floors are classified as medium risk, with 1,180 areas assessed in that way.

Examples include blocks such as Hooker Road in Heartsease, Bullard Road in Mile Cross and Russet Grove in Earlham.

People will be permitted to have ceramic plant pots in those areas, but the number allowed will depend on the size of the corridors or communal areas. One small, non-flammable item, will be allowed on window sills, and ground floor level homes will be allowed flower planters on railings. Ground level floor homes, non-lockable gates will be allowed in some cases.

More than 350 areas have been deemed low risk. In those open, communal areas, a small number of pots and ornaments which do not cause an obstruction will be allowed, as will flower planters at ground floor level and non-lockable gates.

Buggies, bicycles, children's play equipment, small storage units may be allowed in certain circumstances.

Bert Bremner, cabinet member for housing at Norwich City Council, ordered the review because he said a 'one size fits all' approach was not appropriate.

He said: 'We recognise the important role communal spaces can play in having a positive impact on the well-being and quality of life for tenants and leaseholders.

'We want to encourage sensible use of communal spaces wherever possible, but we also have a duty to ensure the safety of all residents.

'Incidents such as the fire at Markham Tower really highlight the importance of keeping communal areas clear from hazards to ensure that everyone can get out of the building safely.'

He stressed the council would talk to tenants about the issues in an attempt to resolve them, with leaflets explaining the new rules given to tenants.

The city council's cabinet will consider the new rules when it meets next Wednesday.

• What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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