Retiree stands ground against Housing’s fireplace removal plans

A retired social housing tenant in Norfolk is adamant he will stand his ground to the very end against plans to block up the fireplace in his home - a policy that could affect 5,000 properties in the region.

Tony Carpenter, 85, of Green Lane in Tivetshall St Margaret, refused workers permission to enter his home at the end of last month after he was told by officers from tenancy provider Saffron Housing that their policy now required secondary forms of heating, like open flues and fires, to be blocked off in all of their occupied properties.

The Long Stratton-based trust states it could pursue legal action if it were continually denied access to carry out the works, but Mr Carpenter claims that the removal of his fireplace would be in breach of the rules in his Tenant’s Participation Compact.

Mr Carpenter, who formerly worked as a heating and ventilation engineer before his retirement, told the Diss Express: “When people get into the position of officer, they think they can throw their weight around, but that won’t work with me.

“Nobody pushes me around.”

A resident of Tivetshall since 1992, Mr Carpenter said that other local homeowners with working fireplaces were opposed to the plans and that he had contacted North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb and Saffron Housing’s Customer Advisory Panel to express his concerns.

He added that the possibility of electricity being the only source of heating in his home would be a big issue for him.

“If there’s a power cut, at my age with my arthritis, the last thing I want is a cold house,” he said.

“The heart of the home is the hearth, as I always say. It’s something in human nature to gather around the fire. You take that away and you start having problems.

“The problem is nowadays, you have people looking at houses who don’t look at the human being. They need to look at what keeps them (the occupants) healthy and happy.”

Tivetshall retiree stands ground against Saffron Housing’s fireplace removal plans.

A spokesperson for Saffron Housing said the policy to cover up all open flues would be reviewed before the end of the year, but may remain as it is.

According to them, the policy had been brought in to ensure the health and safety of their tenants, particularly in places where they did not have good control over flue maintenance.

They stated: “Our policies are constantly updated to reflect changes in laws, but we pride ourselves on our high levels of maintenance.

“We obviously regard these properties as people’s homes, but as landlords we do have the overall responsibility to ensure their safety and we take our responsibilities very seriously.

“Sometimes the tenants say they will carry out the work themselves, but where we can’t control the maintenance of the flues, we feel they are an unacceptable risk.

“We have to be able to guarantee safety across the board. If anything were to go wrong, we would be at fault.”

Saffron Housing added that they could issue a 24 hour notice to any of their tenants if they needed to carry out compulsory works on their premises, although they stressed that they always strived to avoid this situation.

But Mr Carpenter said that he would not budge on the matter, unless the provider was willing to install a secondary or alternatively-fuelled heating system to replace the lost fireplace.


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