AN 87-year-old partially blind pensioner is facing a £170 bill from City of York Council - to remove the hinges from an old gatepost.

Lillian Jackson, who owns a former council flat in Huby Court, off Walmgate, York, says she was granted permission by the council to install a gate outside her property in 1996 in a bid to stop vandals stealing her prize-winning flowers.

But in February this year she received a letter from the council telling her to remove the metal gate and two metal gateposts, which are on land owned by the local authority, because they were a fire hazard.

The letter stated that “if the metal gates and metal posts are not removed by March 6, they will be removed by the City of York Council and put into storage, you may be recharged £50 for the removal of these items.”

Lillian had the gate removed, but the iron posts were cemented into the ground and remained in place.

On April 17 Lillian received another letter from the council, telling her the gate posts should also be removed, and if the local authority did the job it would charge her £665.25 to remove the frame and £177.40 to remove its hinges.

Lillian, who has won several York in Bloom awards for her flowers, said: “I used to put flowers out on my porch for decoration and everybody, all the neighbours loved it.

“But vandals kept stealing them so in 1996 I asked the council if I could fit a metal gate for safety and the council said that was fine.

“Then, they told me that I had to remove the gate because it was a fire hazard.

“I willingly obliged but then the iron posts are cemented to the relayed surface so I cannot get them out.

“Then I received another letter, telling me that I would be charged £842 by the council if I don’t remove the hinges and the posts.

“I don’t understand why I am being billed for £842.

“I have done everything I can to reduce the fire risk and I simply cannot afford the bill on pensioner's benefits.

“This whole ordeal is making me very distressed despite my best attempts to cooperate with the council.”

Mrs Jackson's son, Robert Jackson, said: “How can the first letter inform my mother that she will be charged £50 and the next tell her the bill is £842?

“We can remove the hinges easily, so why the council are charging my mother £177.40 for this I do not understand.

“Why, after 25 years, have the council suddenly decided this is a fire hazard?

“It is absolutely outrageous.”

Denis Southall, head of housing at City of York Council, said: “One of our primary responsibilities as a landlord is the safety of all our tenants and leaseholders. The dangers of fire were highlighted in the tragic fire at Grenfell.

"We have operated and communicated a very clear fire safety policy for many years, which requires all tenants and leaseholders to keep all communal areas clear of any items which might affect an evacuation. This includes any objects protruding into walkways."

The city council, since its last letter, has now indicated that only the hinges on the posts need to be removed.

Mr Southall said: “We notify all tenants or leaseholders of their duty to remove hazards within a reasonable time frame. In this instance, only the gate hinges would, in poor visibility, be a hazard during an emergency situation.

"We offer tenants or leaseholders the choice of doing so themselves or using our services, for which there will be a charge.

"In this instance, at first we mistakenly suggested we would charge £50 and we apologise for that and any distress we may have caused. Subsequently we have given two correct price options.

"We welcome any tenants’ or leaseholders’ questions on the policy and working with them to ensure the safety of all in our buildings.”