Pictures on walls aren’t a big risk, says safety chief

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The County Hall chief in charge of public protection has confirmed that pictures in corridors at sheltered housing schemes are not an ‘unreasonable risk or hazard’.

In a letter sent to Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning, Herts County Council’s head of protection John Boulter said the fire service has not been consulted by Dacorum Borough Council officials who ordered that old folk strip communal corridors of pretty pictures and other homely touches.

The letter said: “Relevant guidance states that escape routes should be kept clear.

“Clearly there needs to be a balanced and pragmatic approach, and pictures properly secured to walls do not present risk especially in terms of fire.

“The difficulty appears to be in the interpretation of this guidance. In this instance it appears either a misunderstanding. or possibly a poorly-informed person has taken a ‘zero tolerance’ approach.”

Pensioners at sheltered housing complexes spoke out against the strict fire rules earlier this year when they were told to remove pictures, pot plants and other items.

Jacqueline Boore, 84, said: “The wardens got told to tell us if we didn’t comply they would come round and confiscate whatever was out there and we would have to pay a fine to get them back. It put a lot of people’s backs up.”

Some tenants have started to fight back against the rules and have put their pictures and other items back out in the corridors.

Mr Boulter said: “We are supporting Dacorum but we recognise that there are a number of other ways of achieving the same result.”

The possibility of fixing pictures to walls with Perspex screens has already been put forward and council chiefs say that is something they are willing to do if tenants request it.

Borough council group manager for tenants Andy Vincent said: “We are seeking to take a sensitive approach to the enforcement of the policy by working with residents to help them understand why we are taking this approach and to find a solution that both we and the residents are happy with.”