A ‘knee-jerk reaction’ to last year’s Grenfell fire has seen housing companies ban mobility scooters from landings and corridors making it difficult for people to stay mobile, residents at housing complexes have complained.
Since the disaster a year ago, which killed 72 people, authorities and private housing firms have been forced to review their fire safety and most have concluded that the storage and charging of mobility scooters in walkways can cause dangerous obstructions.
Several residents at a sheltered housing complex in Honley, West Yorkshire, have said that the new policy at their homes means that they now have to store scooters in cupboards, making them difficult to access and limiting mobility.
Resident Barbara Kirby told the Huddersfield Daily Examiner that after the Grenfell fire Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing (KNH) said mobility scooters could not be left out.
“KNH are meant to be building sheds outside for the scooters, but although they laid the hard standing seven or eight weeks ago nothing has happened since,” she said.
Ms Kirby added that residents were told that leaving scooters on landings posed a fire risk. But she reportedly said the decision was “nonsense” as there is a sprinkler system in the two storey building.
The resident now has her scooter taken out of a cupboard in her living room every morning by the complex’s co-ordinator, who returns it each afternoon.
Ms Kirby said: “This has taken away much of my independence. I can only go out between 8am and 4pm Mondays to Fridays when the co-ordinator is about and I cannot go out at weekends because he doesn’t work then.
“Getting the scooter out takes a lot of manoeuvring because the corridors are not that wide. It takes 15 minutes to get it out onto the street. I use it every day to get to the village. Without it, I feel trapped.”
A spokesperson for KNH told the newspaper: “We recognise that scooter storage is a priority for our residents and that there needs to be safe yet practical solutions to address this.
“For the safety of our residents in the event of a fire or evacuation, it is important that all escape routes are unobstructed and remain passable.
“Daily fire safety checks are undertaken and if a scooter (or any other item) is deemed an obstruction then on the grounds of safety, the owner will be asked to store it elsewhere.
“In addition, we have made it clear to residents that under no circumstances can scooters be charged in communal areas.
“Scooters are a particularly high fire risk, including the fumes they would create should they catch fire, and during the charging process the risk of ignition is increased.”
A year ago, AMP reported that the company responsible for managing Grenfell Tower had been reviewing fire safety procedures prior to the devastating blaze, in particular ‘vulnerable’ residents that use aids such as mobility scooters.
Part of the safety review for the 24-storey tower block in London included the “issue of storage and charging of mobility scooters within communal areas”.