Disabled man’s seat sparks safety row at South Shields flats

Philip Powell on the chair which has sparked a row
Philip Powell on the chair which has sparked a row

A householder who is battling poor health fears it will be chair today, gone tomorrow - after housing chiefs moved to ban a seat he uses to rest on outside his home.

Philip Powell, 61, hit out after two warning notices were placed on the rusty, four-legged 18 in-high metal and wicker chair which stands at the door of his ground-floor flat in an 8ft-wide walkway in Regent Court, Laygate, South Shields.

The warning notice on the chair

The warning notice on the chair

Former merchant seaman Mr Powell uses the chair to rest after tackling the path to his home.

The signs - which state ‘Illegal dumping under investigation’ - have appeared in the past two weeks.

Mr Powell says the action is out of proportion and a new homes management warden told him his seat was a fire hazard and must be removed on health and safety grounds.

He said the chair had been in place for at least three years without previous complaint – and slammed the move to remove it.

He said: “It is such a petty thing to do. It’s made me really quite angry.

“These may well be the regulations but they are silly regulations. The chair is so small and the alleyway so wide.

“I must have been using it for at least three years and I’ve had plenty of visitors from the council and none has ever raised issue with it.

“I don’t know why it is now an issue. To say it is a fire hazard is quite ridiculous.”

He added: “I have numerous health problems and rely on the chair for rest when I come back from short walks to the shops.

“My doctor says it’s important to my health that I move around a little. Knowing the chair is there gives me greater confidence to do that.

“I can rest on it and get my breath back before going indoors, especially if I have shopping. I’m really quite shocked by this warning, it’s preposterous.”

Mr Powell retire as a seagoing chef in 2000 after suffering a spinal injury, five years earlier. He was then beset by a series or serious health problems which have left him largely housebound and reliant on a walking stick.

The bachelor’s one-bedroom flat is owned by South Tyneside Homes.

A spokswoman for South Tyneside Homes said it planned to speak to Mr Powell about the issue.

In a statement, she said: “We operate a clear landing policy and inspections are carried out on a regular basis.

“This policy aims to reduce fire and trip hazards as well as maintain safe access to communal areas for all residents.

“Officers plan to visit Mr Powell next week to discuss alternative solutions.”

Labour ward councillor Lynne Proudlock said: “I’ve spoken to Mr Powell and explained to him that it is an issue of health and safety.

“I’m hopeful that we can resolve this for him by installing a seat that is attached to the wall and that will fold up against it.

“That would be the sensible way to solve this problem.”