Declutter of communal areas to take place after safety concerns

Published: 31/01/2024
Cluttered communal area

Concern that items left or stored in corridors, stairwells and landings represent a threat to the safety of tenants living in council-owned blocks of flats is behind the largest ever declutter operation to be carried out by Ashford Borough Council.

Letters have been hand delivered to 1,200 tenants and leaseholders advising that the council will be visiting all internal and external communal areas between 12-16 February and any items left in these areas will be removed and disposed of.

A council spokesman said: “We have previously carried out declutters of communal areas on a smaller scale and generally speaking they have been successful, with the majority of tenants co-operating by removing items from corridors and hallways. This is the first time we have organised a declutter in all of our homes and by giving tenants plenty of notice we hope once again to have their co-operation as we strive to ensure their safety and security.”

The letter states: “Items are beginning to collect in the communal areas, such as landing areas, corridors, under stairs, gardens, and in and around refuse collection areas. The storage of shoes, plants, toys, scooters/bikes (including electric), prams, mattresses, chairs, fridge freezers, gas canisters, paint, mobility scooters and other flammables or any other items will not be tolerated.

“The communal areas must remain sterile of any material at all times. This is both from a safety perspective (trips, slips and falls) of anyone using these communal areas, the stairs especially if it is during a fire when people are evacuating the building; and also a fire safety perspective – hampering escape from the block and being potential fuel for a fire.”

Cluttered items left in a communal area

Tenants have been advised that contractors will clear all of the communal areas of any items left there. “Any items found in the communal areas will be deemed to have been dumped/discarded, therefore will be treated as rubbish and disposed of accordingly,” the letter warns. 

Tenants are reminded they must not store or allow to be stored on the property or any common parts any inflammable, explosive or combustible substance including flue-less bottled gas heaters, paraffin or oil heaters, bottled oxygen or other bottled gas unless they have our written permission.

Warning from Kent Fire and Rescue Service

Suzanna Chisholm, Head of Building Safety at Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) said: “A cluttered communal area of a shared residential property can pose a serious risk in the event of a fire. The items being stored could be blocking a fire exit, which could make it difficult for people to escape, and there’s also a risk something in the communal area could catch alight and make the route impassable.

“We would always advise to keep communal areas clear of any obstructions and to store belongings, particularly battery-powered items such as e-scooters or e-bikes, well away from any shared areas and escape routes.”

Disposing of large items

Tenants are advised that if they need to dispose of large household items they can book a large item collection on our website.

“We offer a bulky waste collection service, which costs £35 for up to four items. Alternatively, you can take unwanted items to the Kent County Council-run Household Waste Recycling Centre in Ashford for little or no charge. Further details can be found on Kent County Council's website.

Tenants are also reminded that external doors must not be wedged open at any time. By enabling access to the building by anyone it allows potential arson, ASB or other vandalism to occur. This is a clear breach of a warranty within the insurance policy held by Ashford Borough Council.

Let’s Stay Fire Safe campaign

The Kent Housing Group is running the Let’s Stay Fire Safe campaign, which includes fire safety advice in the home and guidance on keeping communal areas safe in blocks of flats. The campaign includes a wealth of tips and guidance on staying fire safe, including animations. For more information and to view the animations, visit Kent Housing Group online.