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t is argued that elderly and disabled tenants who leave mobility scooters in apartments and hallways should be kicked out of Bristol's council tower buildings for posing a fire risk. Tenants and leaseholders debated whether the local government should kick people out for using motorised vehicles, electric bikes, and e-scooters inside of buildings because the lithium batteries are a "ticking time bomb" that could catch light and endanger lives.
The organisation was installing cages where scooters could be stored safely after admitting there weren't enough, according to council chiefs, who said they wouldn't even consider the idea. As part of the £97 million in fire safety measures approved by the Labour cabinet in January, Bristol City Council is installing sprinklers in all 62 high-rises and removing hazardous cladding, which was discovered in more than half of the blocks.
It came after the deadly Twinnell House fire in Easton last September, which was brought on by a problem with an electric bike charger and claimed the life of 30-year-old Afghan asylum seeker Abdul Jabar Oryakhel when he fell from a 16th-floor window while attempting to flee the flames. The following month, a second large fire at Eccleston House in Barton Hill injured six people, three of whom were hospitalised for burns and smoke inhalation. It was later determined that flammable cladding contributed to the fire's spread.
Electric scooter batteries are potentially lethal and should not be brought inside tower blocks, according to the council's housing management board, which is made up of tenants, council members, and housing officers. Some members of the board called for those who did so to be evicted. Council tenant and vice-chairman of the board Pete Daw stated during the meeting that an electric bike's lithium ion battery was to blame for the worst fire, which occurred in Twinnell House.
“These batteries cause fires. Yes, they’re useful in mobility devices, but they kill people. It’s why you can’t take one on a train, you can't take one on an aircraft, and we should review whether you should be able to take one into a tower block.
“I would request a fire officer to visit every single flat where a resident puts a mobility scooter in their hallway and have the fire service explain the consequences and the lives they are jeopardising by their selfish, stupid, reprehensible, irresponsible behaviour." This is in breach of the tenancy, and I ask that we use warning letters in breach of tenancy to people who jeopardise the lives of other tenants.”
He claimed that he had previously urged Bristol mayor Marvin Rees and cabinet member for housing, Cllr. Tom Renhard, to build outdoor charging stations for e-bikes and mobility scooters. "So what you are suggesting is that we get rid of everyone who has a mobility scooter on the landing, get them evicted?" Nigel Varley, a resident of Gilton House for the over-60s in Brislington, responded.
“Because irrespective of the rules, there are people who, if they don’t have access to their mobility scooter, are trapped in their flats. The answer to this is not punitive, it’s for the council to accelerate its programme of providing charging facilities in each block.
“They should make it a matter of urgency because, as I accept what you say, a lithium battery is now the biggest fire risk that exists in social housing, therefore, it must be a matter of absolute urgency and priority with a fixed timescale that runs into weeks rather than years to provide these facilities. You can quote the rules and threaten people all you like, but they’ll still park their scooters there because otherwise they’re trapped and things come to an end for them.”
He asked for a commitment from director of housing and landlord services Donald Graham to commit to a timeline to install battery-charging areas because “this is the most serious risk to life”. Leaseholder Chris Evans said: “I raised this issue with the council 17 months ago, and no one wanted to know about it.
“Since then, we’ve had the tragedy. I made it very clear about the dangers, and there was the usual nebulous response.. “If what I had said in the first place had been heeded, we wouldn’t be where we are now. This is about human life. It’s ridiculous—everything gets sidelined until there is a crisis.”
He said everyone with a mobility scooter should be housed on the ground floor or in a bungalow. Mr. Graham told the meeting: “We’re trying to roll out a programme of cage storage for mobility scooters so they don’t have to go into the flat, and they should certainly not be in the communal areas either because that’s a hazard for evacuation.
“We expect housing officers and waking watch to enforce that. It’s not a nebulous response from the council in relation to lithium batteries.
“We’re fully aware of the dangers and hazards they present. We’ve had intensive discussions with Avon Fire & Rescue Service—we came up with a communication strategy, we did it in public, and we did it in writing about the dangers of lithium batteries and charging.
“Our programme is to create more storage – of which there is insufficient, that is totally correct—across the blocks for people to store mobility scooters, and then the challenge is to incentivize people to use them and feel they are safe and secure in that environment, so that will be a direct engagement. There is no question whatsoever of us seeking to evict anyone in any shape or form simply because they have a mobility scooter.
“That wouldn’t even cross our minds, but we do want people to moderate their behaviour in the interests of themselves and of the whole block. So it’s something we will work on in our residents engagement strategy.
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30 November 2023
05 September 2023