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VICTORY IN FLATS TRINKETS BATTLE.

Byline: David Himelfield ,

protester David Howell HOUSING chiefs have backed down over plans to ban personal possessions from communal areas.

Council tenants and councillors are claiming victory after the ban on plants, carpets and furniture from hallways, staircases and shared areas was dropped.

Now, residents of two-storey council flats will be allowed to keep live plants, fitted carpets and wall fixtures.

Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing - the landlord for council housing in this area - is also considering other types of properties where the stringent plans could be relaxed.

The decision follows a meeting at Deercroft Flats, Salendine Nook.

It was between tenants, KNH officials, fire prevention officers, the Kirklees Federation of Tenants' and Residents' Association and Lindley ward councillor Tony Brice.

Tenants said the previous plans, aimed at reducing fire risks and improving escape routes, would make their homes look like prisons.

David Howell, 68, of Deercroft Road, said he would have stopped Kirklees Council from taking any of his plants, pictures or chairs from the landing unless they had a court order.

Mr Howell, treasurer and secretary of Deercroft Tenants' and Residents' Association said: "They wanted to make it look like Cell Block H.

"KNH admitted they lumped everyone together.

"Risk assessments must be done on an individual basis. In my hallway there are no sockets or plugs or any ignition point for a fire.

"At the meeting common sense prevailed. We found some even ground where we met. We realise the residents had to do something and accept responsibility ourselves.

"I'm quite satisfied that everything was done that could be done. But I think it was badly handled in the first place. They tried to steamroll us."

Cora Carter, chairman of the Kirklees federation, said: "We're quite happy that KNH have had a look at it again and come up with the compromises.

"But I wish they had consulted the residents first, then we wouldn't have had to go through this. We have lots of consultation events.

"Some 99% of people are reasonable if you contact them. All the residents got was a letter saying 'shift everything'. ''

Almondbury councillor John Smithson said: "Common sense has at last prevailed and residents can keep the communal areas looking like their homes and not prisons.

"There is no evidence that everyday homely possessions, such as plants and pictures, cause problems.

"KNH were over-zealous in their interpretation of new fire regulations."

Clr Brice said: "It was a very fruitful meeting. We feel it solved the problems."

KNH director Paul Buckley said: "It was confusing from the start.

"We were given advice that the areas should be sterile, so we took that on board.

"The landlord is now responsible for fire safety and officials like me are in the firing line if anyone is killed or maimed by fire if any of their possessions go up in smoke.

"The communal areas belong to the landlord, but people want to make them look homely - which I understand.

"But we don't want them so homely it starts a fire."

Another KNH spokes- man said : "The point of the new regulations is to make sure that communal entrances are safe routes for people to escape from fires.

"This means making sure they're clear of any obstructions or materials that could catch fire.

"We will be visiting tenants and advising them.

We want to work together to make sure we comply with the new regulations for everyone's safety."
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Oct 28, 2006
Words:569
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