Angry tenants have accused their housing association of turning into Scrooge after it removed Christmas wreaths from their doors and then demanded money for their return.

Joanna Bennett, 30, of Duke’s Court, Revere Way, West Ewell, has condemned the "Scrooge-like" approach of Thames Valley Housing Association (TVHA) which removed 16 wreaths from outside flats on Friday and then demanded £10 for the return of each item.

She and her neighbours simply cannot understand why the organisation which runs the block of flats where she lives, has suddenly decided to claim that the wreaths are a fire hazard and are "blocking communal areas".

Ms Bennett, who has hung one outside her door there for the past six years, said: "It’s ridiculous. It’s really upsetting. Why are we not allowed to hang them up?

"The housing association has taken Christmas away. It’s a money-making exercise.

"The wreaths weren’t blocking or harming anything.You would have to go up to them with a lighter to cause a fire."

Surrey Comet:

She had decorated her door with a wooden wreath given to her by her late father, who died when she was six, and a plastic snowman with the words ‘Santa please stop here for Joshua’ - for her eight-year-old son.

He cried when he came home to find the decorations gone and thought Santa would not bring him any presents now.

Ms Bennett has paid the £10 penalty to get the wreath back because of its huge sentimental value.

Neighbour Carly Jennerson, 31, a mother of two, said it was health and safety gone mad and insisted that her fresh green wreath could not pose a fire hazard.

Two other local housing association, Raven Housing Trust and Rosebery Housing Association, confirmed they had no policy banning wreaths at Christmas.

But a spokesman for TVHA said: "Our main concern has always got to be the safety of our residents. We can see why this situation may seem ridiculous to our residents but we don’t allow anything to be left in the access area of our flats.

"We’re following advice from the fire brigade that this is the best way to make sure the area is free of material that can start or worsen a fire, give off poisonous gases or block people’s escape route. We worked with resident groups to agree this as the best approach to keeping everyone safe.

"We recently sent out information to everyone affected. There is a one-off charge of £10 per item to have something returned."

Surrey Comet:

However, Harvey Thory, Reigate and Banstead area fire safety officer, said it is the housing association, not the fire brigade, which decides whether to take this hard-line approach. He said: "There are two approaches to fire load (the amount of flammable material) in a communal area.

"You can have a zero tolerance approach and keep the area sterile. That takes the uncertainty out of it. If you have a reliable occupancy you can have a managed approach to fire loading."