Residents angry over ban on garden

WHEN Dave Mison first moved to Horseman Court in Martlesham two years ago, it was a lonely, soulless place, so together with a few other residents, he decided to set up the Horseman Court Tenants Association.

DISGRUNTLED residents today fear their community spirit will be broken after they were told to remove their social area.

When Dave Mison first moved to Horseman Court in Martlesham two years ago, it was a lonely, soulless place, so together with a few other residents, he decided to set up the Horseman Court Tenants Association.

Since then neighbours have gathered together to enjoy parties on special occasions, coffee mornings and fundraising events.

One of the residents, known as Bling to his friends, saved his pension and bought a patio set and sunshade to put outside his window so that all the residents could get together for tea or coffee in the afternoon.

A few more residents have also placed small seats or benches for their strips of land outside their flats to create a communal area for them to socialise.

However, now the housing association, Sanctuary Hereward Housing, has told everyone that the tables and chairs must be removed by the end of the month as they pose a safety risk.

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Two residents have now also received letters from the housing association telling them they are in breach of their tenancy agreement by causing a nuisance and obstructing “common parts”.

This has prompted residents to launch a Save Our Seats campaign and tomorrow they are staging a 'sit-on' where people are encouraged to bring along their chairs to the area and make a stand.

Mr Mison, chairman of the tenants association, said: “When I moved to here, the neighbourhood was a very lonely place. Myself and two other neighbours put about changing this by forming a tenants association. Our little community has grown and real friendships have been made. It is a very nice place to live now.

“As everyone's flat is too small, we like to conjugate outside. There is nowhere else to sit and chat with each other. We all feel it would be sad to lose our sense of community.”

Asha Baldwin, area housing manager from Sanctuary Hereward Housing, said: “The safety of our residents is paramount which is why we have asked some of them to remove personal property from communal areas in Horseman Court as they pose a potential hazard to other residents.

“For example, should there be an emergency evacuation in the event of a possible fire, these obstacles could hinder their efforts to leave the scheme quickly and safely.”

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RESIDENTS of a sheltered complex in Felixstowe say their community has been wrecked after being told to stub out their ciggies.

Elderly occupants of the 31 flats of Yetton Ward House in Cricket Hill Road say the exclusion of smokers from communal areas has meant people staying in their rooms instead of getting together to socialise.

They even wrote to then Prime Minister Tony Blair about the new smoking ban laws but were told there would be no exceptions or changes to the new law and they had to comply.

Campaigner Mima McKenna, 63, said: “It's become very difficult and is not the same as it used to be. It's very sad and ruined everything we had built up.

“We used to regularly have 15 to 18 people getting together in the communal area for bingo, parties, sing-a-longs, lunches - now you are lucky to see three or four people there.

“People stay in their rooms if they want to smoke - some cannot walk very easily and they don't want to keep going backwards and forwards just to have a cigarette.

“Otherwise, if we want to smoke we have to go outside and walk all the way round the building and it's cold out there. There is no shelter - we have been told we can buy an awning if we like.”

Government officials said under the new law the communal area was not part of the residents' homes and as such was a public place within the complex where both people who would smoke and not smoke were likely to gather and so should be smoke-free.

PEOPLE need to live in a safe environment - but there needs to be common sense in applying rules.

Millions of homes around the country have garden furniture which some over-zealous health and safety experts could construe as a hazard if the worst happens.

But the fact is that life is not entirely risk-free and a balance needs to be drawn between the risk and the ability to enjoy life.

There are likely to be more hazards inside the flats in the event of a fire than the risk caused by a few pieces of garden furniture on the communal area outside.

Much is made at present of the need to have a sense of community. Residents of Horseman Court in Martlesham have mounted a real community effort.

It is the kind of initiative their landlords really ought to be supporting - not finding nit-picking reasons to attempt to squash.