Bristol pensioner’s fury over 'ridiculous'’ letter asking her to shift mobility scooter
IT IS Hannah Stewart's lifeline, the only way the 89-year-old, severely disabled pensioner can get out of her flat.
For fifteen years, Mrs Stewart has parked her mobility scooter in a dead-end alcove outside her Bedminster front door.
Now, however, a council official has designated the scooter a "fire hazard" and ordered that it will be disposed of unless Mrs Stewart removes it.
Mrs Stewart came out of her flat to find a "threatening" letter attached to the scooter. The retired nurse said: "The way the letter was worded was so aggressive. I did not sleep all night, it really upset me and I feel like it has aged me about 10 years.
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"I am severely disabled – I have 20-year-old replacement knees, a replacement shoulder and a weak heart. That scooter is my legs – without it I cannot get around or leave my flat at all.
"I don't understand the problem because the scooter's not in the way. If they take mine away from me I might as well jump out of a window now."
Mrs Stewart is one of several elderly residents in council-owned tower block Northfield House who have been told they must remove their mobility scooters from alcoves on the block's corridors because they are a "fire hazard".
Letters from the council's Fire Safety Team have been attached to mobility scooters parked in the dead-end alcoves at the flats in Bedminster telling their owners that they are breaching fire safety regulations and must be removed.
The letter says that "all corridors, walkways and communal areas must be kept clear at all times".
Residents say they were told at a meeting three months ago that although pictures on corridor walls and other such "fire hazards" should be removed, they were told the scooters could stay where they were.
About 12 of the scooters are regularly parked in the building, and residents say they have nowhere else to keep them.
Mrs Stewart, pictured, who has lived in the 18-storey block of 99 flats for 15 years, spoke to the council and they have given her a month to find somewhere else to keep it.
"I can't keep it in my flat, it won't fit," she said. "I asked if they could provide me with somewhere to live where I could keep it inside but they said they couldn't do that.
"I do have access to a garage owned by my son but it is too far away for me to walk with my sticks, and I wouldn't be able to charge it in there. I don't know what they expect me to do."
Mrs Stewart says she has been told that the scooters are not only in the way, but could catch fire themselves as they are charging.
"I think that is ridiculous," she said. "I have spoken to the man who provided me with my scooter and he said that does not happen. We are all so angry about this – and not just the people with mobility scooters."
She has tried to use an electric wheelchair as an alternative to the scooter but finds it difficult to operate with her damaged shoulder.
A Bristol City Council spokesman said: "As the Evening Post has previously reported, we are rolling out a clear corridors policy across the city in our accommodation blocks. The reason for this is simple; the safety of residents in the event of fire.
"Avon Fire and Rescue Service has been absolutely clear on this issue; that personal belongings left in corridors such as mobility scooters, tables and ornaments, can be serious obstacles to the safe evacuation of communal flats, particularly when corridors become filled with smoke.
"We have been talking to and consulting with residents first and have said that where, for example, a resident has an issue with the storage of a scooter, we will work with them to resolve the problem. Our housing officers have been doing this with residents at Northfield House and will continue to do this over the next few weeks."
A spokesman for Avon Fire and Rescue Service said it supported Bristol City Council and residents for promoting fire safety.
He added: "Thick smoke from a fire can quickly cause you to become disorientated, even in the most familiar surroundings. Our advice to any householder is to ensure they have a clear and unobstructed escape route as it really could be the difference between life or death.
"It is actually the smoke that causes most deaths in fires, as just a couple of breaths can be fatal. The easier it is to escape, the better the chances are of surviving.
"Obstructions can also hinder the work of firefighters coming to help you. Obstacles in escape routes will slow rescue crews or even provide fuel to make a fire more severe."