Swanley pensioners say 'health and safety gone mad' over West Kent Housing doormat and plant pot ban threat
FOR the elderly residents of a sheltered housing complex in Swanley the threatening letters were the last straw.
In July tenants of the Panter's in Hextable received notes from manager West Kent Housing Association stating pot plants and flower baskets outside first floor flats could be banned completely if strict rules were not followed.
These rules allowed only two baskets and two pots per flat, with restrictions on size and how far tubs could extend from the wall.
The letter signed-off with a chilling warning of a "zero tolerance policy" should the housing officer find there was "still a problem" on her next visit.
The officer has still not appeared despite pledging to inspect properties again on July 20, with a number of residents refusing to follow edicts which include the banning of doormats as fire hazards.
Panter's resident Ron Day, 78, said: "It's health and safety gone mad. I think they want it to look like a barracks."
Residents are also angry over West Kent's alleged failure to fix the one small washing machine serving all 40 flats, despite it breaking down more than five weeks ago.
When News Shopper visited we were told a plumber had finally come the previous day but lacked the parts to get the ageing washer working again.
Tenants say they have been left to scrub dirty clothes in their own sinks.
"We are vulnerable people here. What they are doing is despicable," said Victor Watson, 81, who lives at the Panter's with his housebound wife Irene, 80.
Other complaints include the loss of live-in wardens, with access to West Kent officers cut to two hours during a Monday coffee morning - when residents even have to bring their own coffee.
Residents claim response times when emergency chords are pulled can be more than 10 minutes.
On one occasion around three weeks ago Mr Day and Mr Watson say they had to use a hacksaw to cut the door chain of one lady in her 90s who had fallen in her flat.
Paramedics attended but were unable to gain access.
On calling West Kent, who are based in Sevenoaks 13 miles away, residents say they were told the handyman responsible for Panter's was "on holiday".
When contacted by News Shopper, West Kent Housing issued this response: "We are committed to providing safe, decent homes for our residents.
"Clearly, they are unhappy and we will contact them directly early next week to try and resolve the problems."