Remove Christmas wreaths or face £120 fines, elderly residents warned

Elderly residents at a retirement complex in Kent have been threatened with fines by “Scrooge” housing association bosses who are refusing to let them put up Christmas decorations.

Hyde Housing, which runs Joseph Conrad House in Canterbury, ordered its residents to take down wreaths from doors and trees from communal areas or face £120 charges to remove them.

Residents said they wanted to make the complex more festive but Hyde told them the decorations posed a fire hazard and could put people at risk.

David Geoghegan, 69, said he and others were upset by “aggressive” letters Hyde sent out to residents and claimed that bosses were acting “acting like the Gestapo”.

He told KentOnline: “Residents have been talking about how upsetting the letters were, and lots of us felt it was uncalled for and heavy-handed tactics.

“It’s Christmas and there is no goodwill in it. The threat of sending people to remove Christmas trees and wreaths – we don’t need that, and we are really upset."

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He added: “I can’t see how a wreath is a fire hazard because millions of people have them.”

Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, agreed and wrote on Twitter: “This seems utterly ‘bah humbug’ Hyde Housing!

“I have had a wreath on my front door in a block of flats for a few Christmasses and I assure you that it’s never once spontaneously combusted. Please allow residents some Christmas cheer in these bleak times.”

Audrey Williamson, head of housing for Hyde, said it was the association’s policy not to allow residents to put up Christmas decorations.

She said they pose a risk to safety, adding that the safety of residents is Hyde's “utmost priority”.

She said: “We’re sorry but we can’t allow our residents at Joseph Conrad House to put up Christmas decorations in the communal areas of their building, due to fire safety regulations,” she said.

“We know many residents were looking forward to making things festive after a difficult year, but we’ve got to make sure everyone’s safe, and keep to the latest fire safety regulations.

“Unfortunately this includes door wreaths, as some can be highly combustible.”

She added: “While we can’t allow Christmas decorations in most communal areas, we’re still putting up decorations in designated safe areas, including the lounge at Joseph Conrad House.

“The £120 was an estimated amount if Hyde was required to remove any of the items which present a risk to everyone’s safety.”

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