Disabled tenant, 62, is told to undo access alterations

Ian Stokes.  INLT 22-691-CON
Ian Stokes. INLT 22-691-CON

A disabled Larne man was ordered by the Housing Executive to undo alterations he had made to a property in a bid to improve access.

Ian Stokes, of Loran Crescent, suffered a spinal injury 10 years ago and can only walk short distances unaided.

He is now reliant on a mobility scooter for his independence.

The 62-year-old moved into the terraced property at Antiville six months ago, but found access difficult at both the front and the rear of the house due to his limited mobility.

He told the Larne Times: “There are steps at both the front and back of the house, which I find quite difficult to use.

“So I decided to make some changes that would allow me to access the back door without having to get off my mobility scooter and walk down the steps.

“I paid a couple of my friends £600 to dig up some of the grass in the back garden and lay some flagstones. This allows me to drive my scooter right up to the back door.

“The scooter is too big to stay indoors, so I also forked out another £400 for a shed to store it in out the back.”

However, Mr Stokes failed to notify the Housing Executive of his plans to install the path.

After the work had been completed and was inspected by NIHE, he received correspondence from the authority telling him to remove the path and reinstate the garden at his own cost.

A letter to Mr Stokes from NIHE’s district manager, dated May 20 stated: “A decision has been made that the work does not comply to NIHE standards and would be deemed a health and safety risk.

“A period of 28 days has been given to restore the garden and path area to its original order.

“This work can be undertaken by yourself, or by NIHE. If the work is carried out by NIHE, all costs will be made recoverable to yourself.”

Mr Stokes told the Larne Times: “I think it is very unfair that I am being told to remove this path.

“I rely on my mobility scooter and there was no disabled access at this house when I moved in.

“The Housing Executive tell me that the path is too steep and that they are concerned about health and safety.

“I don’t see how it can be too steep, as I drive my scooter up the Mill Brae regularly without any problems.

“Between the path and the shed in my back garden, I am £1,000 out of pocket.

“I think it is a disgrace that the Housing Executive would make me undo this work and then bill me for it.”

However, when the Larne Times contacted NIHE to inquire about the situation, a spokeswoman said: “No action will be taken until a further inspection of the property is carried out.

“We are also making arrangements for a local officer to call with the tenant to discuss the situation.”