Gavin Vitler, 32, has been threatened with court action because his ornate tribute to his late grandfather poses ‘a health and safety risk’ according to Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH).
A memorial erected in memory of a green – fingered grandfather has been deemed unsafe by health and safety officers and ordered to be removed immediately.
The mini garden, containing a small pond, fountain and several sentimental photographs of his late grandfather, is placed on a balcony outside Mr Vitler’s flat in Middleton and has been there since his grandfather lost his battle to cancer five years ago at the age of 84.
The garden was lovingly created from an accumulation of cuttings from his grandfather’s plants that Mr Vitler placed into smaller pots and helped them grow.
This acts as a haven for Mr Vitler and is a place of tranquility where he feels connected, through gardening, to his late grandfather.
The disgruntled tenant said: “I used to spend all my days helping grandad in his garden when I was a little boy growing up. He used to bag up vegetables he had grown and hand them out to the neighbours. I suppose I got my love of gardening from him, I loved it when he taught me about all the different plants in his garden and the vegetables he grew.
“When he was diagnosed with cancer, it was so upsetting to see this big, strong man become to weak and frail. The garden then became too much for him to look after but as he taught me how to grow his favourite plants, I took it on. He would sit and watch and guide me through it.
“When he passed away I felt lost and alone, so I took a few cuttings from his plants and began to grow them in pots at home. This became my comfort. I have plants around it in the summer with my Grandad’s favourites, roses, dahlias and fuchsias. I then added a little pond to the plants as fishing was another one of his past times.
“It was our thing that the both of us did together, so the memorial isn’t just a water feature it’s a lot more sentimental to me than just fish and plants and I wont give in to their demands and threats of court action.”
Mr Vitler has been given 28 days, via an unexpected letter, from Thursday November 24 to remove the memorial before Rochdale Boroughwide Housing do. The memorial is approximately three feet away from his door and Vitler expresses: “They are saying it’s a health and safety issue blocking my fire escape but there is clearly plenty of room and after five years nobody has ever tripped or fallen in – not even drunk friends”.
As a settlement, Mr Vitler has suggested he moves the electrical socket inside his home but RBH still insist this welcomes health and safety issues.
An RBH spokesperson told the MEN: “We have a legal responsibility to make sure that all our tenants are safe and secure in their homes and this includes making sure communal areas and any exit routes in case of fire are clear.
“As part of this we have sought advice from Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service and this is very clear that the communal means of escape in flats are to be free from obstruction.
“The issue of personal items outside a number of flats in this area has recently been raised, and following this RBH has written to and visited tenants to explain that the communal areas do need to be kept clear as they form the means of exit and escape for tenants.
“We employ independent fire risk assessors to make sure that our tenants are safe from potential fire, and RBH would be prosecuted if we fail to take appropriate measures to reduce fire risk.
“We would never ask for action to be taken unless we felt that it was necessary to prevent death or serious injury in case of fire.”
Gavin Vitler has now set up an online petition for some support which has already gained over 200 signatures opposing the removal of the memorial.
He says: “I’m going to stand my ground with this one and go to court if I have to but and I will not remove it until we can come up with some sort of compromise so I can keep it.”