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Fury over Tower Hamlets ordering removal of doormats and flowers

PUBLISHED: 16:20 20 July 2012

Rupsha Begum-Smith takes petition round to neighbour Carly Howard to sign

Rupsha Begum-Smith takes petition round to neighbour Carly Howard to sign

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Families have been ordered to remove doormats and flowers on their council estate in London's East End which housing officials have declared dangerous.

Angry tenants on Bethnal Green’s Dorset Estate started a petition after being warned by Tower Hamlets Homes to clear all objects within seven days.

Now the concrete landings at James Hammett House are bare where once summer flowers bloomed, which ironically won the council’s ‘Tower Hamlets In Bloom’ contest one year for the best display of hanging baskets.

“This is outrageous—it’s like the ‘Big Brother’ state,” said tenant John Reid, 55. “We’re being bullied and harassed by cold calling officials handing us ultimatums.”

He maintains his non-slip doormat is fire retardant and doesn’t cause obstruction—“it’s just a doormat.”

The tenant who started the petition, civil servant Rupsha Begum-Smith, 33, told the Advertiser: “Two officials banged on the door and told me to remove my plant pots and doormat.

“It’s petty and uncalled for. There are bigger issues here than flowers and doormats—like the drug dealers we get or our staircase lights not working.”

Her neighbour Carly Howard, 29, was ordered to remove a broom she uses to sweep the communal landing which was deemed “an obstruction”, despite being wedged firmly behind a wall pipe.

Another neighbour, Richard Burwood, 70, said: “They’re harassing people who’ve lived here 40 or 50 years without any trouble.”

The petition objecting to “the manner the notices are being enforced” challenges the doormat removals and classing hanging baskets as “obstruction.”

A Tower Hamlets Homes fire risk assessment showed objects on landings that housing officials think “could cause problems” evacuating the block or because they are flammable.

A housing spokesman said: “We recognise some residents feel we’ve been over-zealous and we’re sorry for that.

“We welcome an opportunity to work with them to make sure we get the balance right between keeping the block safe and maintaining common sense.”

Meanwhile, On the eighth floor of the 10-storey James Hammett House, widow Nell Barnett, 81, proudly displays the framed certificate her late husband John received in 1996 from the mayor for the East End’s best window hanging baskets.

But 16 years on, the flowers have gone—she is not allowed to continue John’s legacy with the ban being imposed by housing officials.

It is the second time in 21 months Tower Hamlets Homes has ruffled feathers, after a similar ban over washing lines on Poplar’s Will Crooks estate facing Canary Wharf.

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