Sheffield council orders residents to remove 'wonderful' community plants in health and safety row

Sheffield council have ordered residents to remove the ‘wonderful’ community plants they have hanging on their council estate balconies over health and safety concerns.

By Lizzie Day
Friday, 30th October 2020, 8:32 am

Those living on the top floor of the Washington Road estate received a letter from the local authority on Saturday, October 24, informing them that if the flowers on their balconies were not ‘removed’ by November 20, they would be ‘disposed of’ for health and safety reasons.

Residents have been decorating their balconies with ‘wonderful’ plants for the past two years.

The letter read: "All escape routes – corridors, stairwell and entrance areas – must be free from objects that could be a fire risk.

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Resident Toni Morgan believes the plants help foster community spirit on the Sheffield estate.

"Although I appreciate that many residents wish to enhance or improve their surroundings, unfortunately anything placed in communal areas can also pose a serious risk of fire and can create an obstruction for escape in the event of fire for yourselves and the emergency services.”

Residents were also told they could be fined if the council are forced to dispose of the plants themselves.

Toni, who has lived on the estate for the last three and a half years, admitted she cried when she received the letter which she felt was threatening.

"People end up in places like a council estate for a reason, they can be really good positive places and to be treated like that by the council with no kind of preamble and telling us to reduce the number of plants, it's made a lot of us feel quite victimised”, she said.

"It made us feel like we are the kind of tenants that need threatening and telling because we are doing something wrong.”

Toni urged the council to tackle problems such as the estate’s pigeon infestation and waste disposal issues, instead of their community plants.

She added: "It's not only not doing harm it's actually positively promoting community spirit and a lot of different people on the estate from a lot of different backgrounds with a lot of different languages and cultures - it's bringing us all together."

The community organiser said her and her neighbours would be willing to come to compromise with the council and remove some of the plants causing an obstruction.

Janet Sharpe, Director of Housing and Neighbourhood Services said: “It wasn’t our intention to upset anyone and we’re happy to talk with residents about our request to remove flowers from the communal walkways.

"We want everyone to be able to improve their communal spaces but we do have a duty to act swiftly to remove any potential fire hazard for the safety of all residents.

"We’ve asked South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue to visit the block shortly to see if there could be any possible compromise on this at all.

“Due to Covid-19 Environmental Services have delayed starting a trial to deter pigeons by using netting on one of the Leverton tower blocks.

"Once the trial has taken place, and if it’s successful, netting will be provided at the other 2 tower blocks.

“Homes in the Wiggen, Keating & Gregory blocks usually have their windows cleaned twice per year but the August clean was delayed due to Covid-19.

"We are chasing this up with the contractor.”

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