The ‘prisoners’ of Great Yarmouth scooter ban

FIRE safety rules brought in for council flats in Great Yarmouth have left some tenants fearful of becoming ‘prisoners’ in their own homes.

The measures were introduced by the borough council to community homes in Great Northern Close, Midland Close and Stephensons Close in Great Yarmouth two weeks ago. In a letter, residents were told they could not leave mobility scooters in the public areas that link the flats because of concern over recent flat fires elsewhere in the country.

But 62-year-old former security guard Fred Simms, who is rendered nearly immobile by arthritis and cellulitis, claims the rules will cut him off from the outside world.

The grandfather said: “If we can’t keep the scooter we will have to move, and it’s like being a prisoner here – I’m not going to be stuck like I’m in a jail for the rest of my life.”

Fred moved two years ago to the ground-floor flat because of his problems with walking.

Josie, his wife, said: “When we looked at the flat, I asked the council if we could have the scooter by the front door and they said yes.

“It’s not even in the way.”

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The scooter is too big to fit through the doorway into their home, and Mrs Simms said that suggestions from the council that they buy a shed to put it in were misplaced and impractical.

Pointing to the cost of building such a shed, she added that her husband would be dependent on others to get the scooter out, and that, as well as difficulties in charging the machine, the couple were also concerned any building would be vandalised.

The new rules follow on from a recent fire inspection. As well as mobility scooters, they also ban flowerpots, pictures, net curtains, prams and cycles among other things from the stairwells, landings and lobbies.

Another person affected is nearby resident Christine Chambers, 73. Although she understands fire safety concerns, she also describes her mobility scooter as “not causing an obstruction”.

“It’s been there for three years and I’ve had no complaints from anyone. I can hardly walk, and there’s nowhere to put it.

“I would not be able to get out of the house at all. I would have to rely on my son to get about, but he’s working.”

Denis Gilbert, with whom local councillor Mick Castle has raised the issue, is director of community housing. He pointed to the major flat fires that have occurred in recent years in places like London and said it is “to do with keeping fire exits clear within blocks of flats.

“There have always been conditions with tenancy of flats, and what has happened elsewhere has really concentrated our minds on it. I can’t compromise on such an important issue.”

Mick Castle said he was “disappointed” by the council’s reaction, and emphasised that alternative arrangements needed to be made for each disabled tenant affected by the news.