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Feathers fly as Good Lifers face eviction; Housing chiefs say chickens are health risk.

Byline: Sam Wood

A HUSBAND and wife in their 80s have been threatened with eviction if they don't get rid of two chickens they keep in their garden.

Ronald Lewis, 86, who lives on Dennison Crescent in Birtley with his wife Elizabeth, 82, has kept the chickens for a year in a bid to be more self sufficient.

Mr Lewis also grows his own vegetables, keeps bees and brews his own beer and wine.

The couple eat eggs from the chickens every day in an attempt to save money on food bills.

But last August Gateshead Housing Company (GHC), which runs the houses for Gateshead Council, warned Mr Lewis that the chickens were a health and safety risk and that he need to get rid of.

They also said they have received complaints from neighbours.

But Mr Lewis refused and after an inspection last month the housing company have said they will begin eviction proceedings if the chickens are not removed from the property.

The family received a letter this week from a GHC employee, which said: "If the chickens remain at the property, I will have no alternative but to serve you with a Notice of Seeking Possession."

Mr Lewis, who has eight children and 27 grandchildren, remained defiant despite the threat of losing the home he has lived in for 27 years.

He said: "There is no way I will get rid of these birds. They don't cause any trouble and all the neighbours seem to love them. They are very quiet, I just don't understand what all the fuss is about.

"This is causing a lot of stress for me and my wife, but I won't give in."

Their daughter, Vera Flynn, 41, said: "It is disgusting what is going on here. My mum and dad are being harassed by the housing company and it is having a bad effect on them.

"We had a meeting in January and I felt they were being bullied into getting rid of these birds. They are saying it's a health and safety issue but they won't tell us what that issue is.

"All they say is that it is against the rules and regulations to keep any livestock."

A spokesperson from the GHC said: "Gateshead Council's tenancy agreement clearly states that tenants 'must not keep livestock and animals must not cause a nuisance.

"The housing company will continue to work with Mr Lewis until the issue is resolved."

Blaydon MP Dave Anderson has been made aware of the case. He said: "I can see both points of view here. Evicting someone over this would seem to be over the top, I hope a more sensible solution can be found."

BASIL GIVEN THE BIRD, AND FOUND LOVE

IT'S not the first time Gateshead Housing Company has got into a row over a bird.

Basil the Wandering Cockerel won the hearts of people worldwide after he was threatened with eviction.

Housing chiefs told the rooster's adopted owner Joyce Callaghan, of Henderson Avenue, Gateshead, he had to go because of his crowing.

A campaign was launched to save him and hundreds gave their support via the internet.

Bosses refused to budge, but there was a happy ending when Basil was taken in by a farm in Bamburgh, Northumberland... and found love.

CAPTION(S):

WE WON'T CRACK Ron and Betty Lewis insist they will not get rid of their hens, despite being threatened with eviction from their home.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 5, 2009
Words:574
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