Father's chained protest at council

A FURIOUS father embroiled in a housing dispute with his local council took desperate action yesterday – chaining himself to a post in the authority's head offices.

A FURIOUS father embroiled in a housing dispute with his local council took desperate action yesterday – chaining himself to a post in the authority's head offices.

Philip Bowers walked into Babergh District Council's headquarters in Hadleigh at about 11am, pulled out a bike chain and a pair of handcuffs, shackled himself to a pole in reception and blew a whistle.

Speaking to the EADT as he sat in the offices with a bag of supplies including a flask of coffee, crisps and chocolate bars, the 32-year-old builder said the action was a last resort.

But, just over four hours after starting his one-man protest, Mr Bowers and the council agreed on a compromise which saw both sides go home happy.

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The dispute stemmed from £15,000 worth of work which Mr Bowers carried out at his two-bedroom council house in Raydon, without the authority's permission.

He claimed the work – which saw him knock out a wall to extend the lounge area and fit a new kitchen – was essential to make the house more habitable for his family.

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He has lived in the modest property for more than three years with fiancée Samantha Piggott and their four children, who are aged between one and seven-years-old.

However, the authority claimed the work had made the house unsafe, and told him they would not move him until he paid £8,000 to undo the changes.

During his protest, Mr Bowers said: "I've got four children living in a two-bedroom house and all I've done is try to maximise my living area.

"It's better for my family – we couldn't live in it the way it was. The council say that the building is now structurally unsound but I disagree.

"They're being unreasonable. It's suitable for any other family to move in to. We haven't destroyed the house, we've made it ten times better.

"I'm not trying to cause trouble in any way, I just want some answers. I will stay here for as long as it takes."

But, following discussion with council officers, the authority agreed to allow Mr Bowers to re-install the wall himself – and pledged to move him and his family once the work was finished.

He said: "What we've agreed to is that I do put up a wall back there but I can leave the kitchen where it is and they'll move me straight away.

"I can do all the work myself, which means it will cost about £400. It's a great result for me – I can sleep tonight.

"The protest was very much worth doing, otherwise I would never have got my side of things heard.

"It will take about three or four weeks to do the work, and then we will be moved. I'm really chuffed with that."

Chris Foti , Babergh's head of housing, said: "Babergh is pleased that, after further discussions with the tenant, the council's request to reinstate the supporting wall will be carried out at no cost to the council.

"Our overriding concern has always been the safety of our tenants and the good maintenance of our properties."

The police were called to Babergh's offices during Mr Bower's protest, but were stood down after council staff said they would deal with the matter.

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