'So ridiculous': Man forced to remove garden bench over health and safety concerns

Steve Owens stands beside where the bench was. (BNPS)
Steve Owens stands beside where the bench was. (BNPS)

A neighbour has been ordered to remove a communal bench outside his property by officials citing health and safety.

Steve Owens, 60, put the seat in the communal area outside his council flat for him and neighbours to take a rest.

But it sparked a row, with Owens - who installed it without permission - handed a notice telling him to remove it or else the local authority would take it away.

He was told by the manager of his complex in Poole, Dorset, that the bench posed a risk to the gas pipe fixed to the wall. The retired builder had attached the metal bench to the outside wall of his flat to stop it being stolen, but said it wasn't in contact with the gas pipe.

Owens has since reluctantly removed the seat.

The notice on the bench. (BNPS)
The notice on the bench. (BNPS)

He detailed the moment he found the removal notice: "I came home to find a load of neighbours in the garden. They were looking at the bench and they said to me: 'Have you seen this?' I read the notice stuck to the bench and I said: 'You've got to be joking.'

"I left the notice there and everyone took photos of it because it was so ridiculous.

"It's a two-seater bench that someone could pick up with one hand. I was only trying to make the communal area look nice. It's ludicrous. There's only one council bench for 60 residents. Mine was there for everybody to enjoy."

The notice on the bench read: "You have failed to remove this item from the communal areas of the property as required.

"PHP [Poole Housing Partnership] on behalf of the council will remove this item from the property if you have not removed it."

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The notice gave Owens a deadline to remove it and warned that after that date PHP would "exercise its right to sell or dispose" of it.

Owens added: "I called up the manager for the block. He said: 'You've got it attached to a gas pipe'. I said: 'I'm not stupid - it's attached to the wall.'

"He then said it was illegal to attach anything to the walls so I told him he had better go around and get rid of all the hanging flower baskets."

The father-of-two, who suffers from health issues which affect his mobility, added: "The reason I attached it to the wall is because sometimes undesirable people walk past and I didn't want it to get nicked.

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"I am a disabled man, sometimes I have bad days and I can't walk very far, and I'd go sit on it, especially in the hot weather. I liked to rest there when I'm tending to my flowers.

"It posed no health and safety issue - there's no fire hazard or risk of a gas leak."

A Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council spokesperson said: "The bench in question was placed in the communal grounds without permission. It has been removed, but no eviction notice has been served in relation to this issue.

"BCP has provided wooden benches elsewhere in the communal grounds at Vale Close to facilitate the mixing and socialising of tenants."