‘We don’t want to live in a workhouse’

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Old folk in sheltered housing have been ordered to strip their communal hallways of pretty pictures that make the building more homely – because they have been branded a fire hazard.

People living in complexes run by Dacorum Borough Council were told this week to take down the artwork or officials would do it for them.

Widower Robert Alexander, 89, has had two winter scenes hanging in a corridor outside his flat at Hollytree Court, St Albans Road, Hemel Hempstead, for the 21 years that he has lived there.

He said: “Suddenly we have to take them down because it is a fire hazard. I think it is absolutely ridiculous.

“Ever since I have been here we have put up pictures to make it feel more homely. It is beginning to look like an institution. I can’t see what fire hazard pictures on the wall can cause.

“We are all up in arms about it.

“Are they going to come into our supported flats and take down all our pictures as well? It seems like such a stupid thing. Who on earth has been thinking of these things?

“It makes it look like a workhouse.”

He said some tenants have pledged to write to council bosses and Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning in a bid to get the ruling overturned.

Council support housing team leader Dharini Chandarana said: “While we understand these concerns, following fire risk assessments and in the light of some high profile flat fires in other areas, the council is taking action to reduce the risks posed by items stored in communal areas, stairwells and landings in flats – which includes items hanging on the walls. We have a duty to ensure that access and escape routes are free from trip hazards and that nothing will explode or shatter during a fire should there be a need to evacuate the building.”

The ‘clear landing policy’ will affect a total of 30 council-run complexes.

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