Portsmouth residents angry after communal areas are cleared

Steven Fisher with his mum (left) Sheila Fisher, 81, and resident Margaret Turner, 68, in one of the empty common areas.'  Picture: Sarah Standing (141743-9667)
Steven Fisher with his mum (left) Sheila Fisher, 81, and resident Margaret Turner, 68, in one of the empty common areas.' Picture: Sarah Standing (141743-9667)
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ELDERLY residents of a block of council flats are furious after being told to remove their personal belongings from the building’s communal areas.

Letters were sent to the residents of Thorrowgood House in Malins Road, Buckand, telling them the foyers on each floor of the building had to be cleared of furniture, pictures, ornaments and carpets because they were a fire hazard.

Resident Sheila Fisher, 81, said she felt more isolated since the sofas, tables, and decorations were taken away.

Mrs Fisher said: ‘I’ve been in here 14 years and when I moved in it was a beautiful place and the people were lovely.

‘Now it’s all changed – they’ve stripped it.’

Mrs Fisher’s son, Steven Fisher, of Portsea, said he complained to the council after the rooms were cleared.

He said they responded by installing a wooden bench in the ground-floor foyer, which was unpopular with residents.

He said: ‘The council decided to remove all the furniture, they said everything had to go.

‘It feels like bullying, to be honest.

‘It’s very unfair for the people who live in the block.’

Resident Pauline Vokes, 62, said that although she knew not everybody wanted furnished communal spaces, the block looked bare without them.

She said: ‘Welcome to our morgue.’

Another resident, Margaret Turner, 68, said the building felt like a prison after the communal areas were cleared.

She said: ‘They’ve taken all the pictures, the settees and furniture out and left us with a horrible park bench.

‘It’s disgusting, it’s like we’ve been swept under the carpet.’

A council spokesman said a fire safety inspection had: ‘identified a large volume of combustible items, such as upholstered furniture, carbon base materials – for example wood and paper – and items forming a possible obstruction in smoke-logged means of escape in the event of a fire.

‘There is an increased sense of awareness of the effect of combustible items in a confined space and, therefore, the potential for enforcement action by Hampshire Fire and Rescue service.’

A Hampshire Fire and Rescue spokesman said the law required fire risk assessments to be carried out on the common areas of flats, as these areas were the main fire escape route for residents.

The spokesman said: ‘Part of the duties covered in the fire safety order is the prevention of the spread or in fact starting of a fire in protected means of escape by having a sterile common area.’