Residents in an Aberdeen sheltered-housing complex today hit out at the council after being ordered to take down their Christmas decorations for health and safety reasons.
A tree and other festive ornaments had gone up at Murray Court in Woodside, but they have all been removed on the orders of Aberdeen City Council.
Residents say the move has “ruined the Christmas spirit” and called on the council to ease the rules.
The local authority has defended the move – which affects all multi-storey council buildings – saying Christmas trees and decorations “may cause an obstruction”.
A Christmas tree went up in Murray Court foyer last Sunday.
However, by the following day, it had been removed.
A long-time resident was told by staff that she had until 3pm the next day to take down other decorations.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said: “I had been talking to the staff to see if we could get some Christmas decorations up, because it’s already December and by this time last year, we at least had a tree.
“I spoke to the manager who said he would look into putting something up. A tree went up by the main entrance on Sunday, but by Monday, it was gone. When we asked what happened, the manager said they were told by Aberdeen City Council to take them down.”
To brighten the foyer in the absence of a tree, residents then started putting up decorations – but they too broke the new rules.
The resident added: “I decided to decorate our floor, since every year it’s decorated. We put up pictures on the wall and I even made a Santa postbox.
“Some other tenants on the floor helped me make it for the kids who come to visit so they could drop off their letters. The next day I was told to take them down.
“I almost didn’t want to finish taking them down because I was so upset.”
Pam Lynch, 70, who has lived in the building for the last decade, said the tenants are “disgusted” by the decision.
She said: “The council are taking away the Christmas spirit. We have all come together to put little bits and bobs together to brighten up the area.
“And they just take it away – it’s just sad. We are all quite disgusted and angry that it’s happened.”
Norman Innes, 65, said this was the first time in his 10 years at Murray Court that residents would go without any Christmas decorations.
He added: “It’s Christmas time and we should be allowed to put up a Christmas tree at least.
“Everyone is really upset by this. Someone took the time to decorate our floor and then was asked to take everything down.
“The council might be thinking about the health and safety issues, but there must be a way to decorate safely. Christmas is coming up and now it’s ruining the Christmas spirit.”
His wife, Freda, 62, added: “During Christmas time, there’s a lot of people in this building who cannot get out. Little things like this can make a big difference to them and the people who come to the building to see them.
“A Christmas tree can light up everyone’s day and brightens up the place. It’s just a shame.”
An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “We want all residents in all our buildings to enjoy the festive season in a safe and comfortable environment.
“To ensure the fire service has clear and an unobstructed access to all communal areas in multi-storey properties, residents have been advised not to have items in communal areas.
“This includes motorised scooters, Christmas trees and decorations, where they may cause an obstruction. We work closely with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and residents to ensure safety is a priority for all.”
Bruce Farquharson, SFRS local senior officer, said: “We want everyone to have a safe and a very happy Christmas. It is a time of celebration but it is also a time when we unfortunately see an increased risk of fire and that is why we this week launched our winter safety campaign.
“It is, of course, imperative that any communal areas and stairwells are kept clear of large objects and flammable materials so that residents can make their way to a place of safety in the event of an emergency.”