Petworth woman “would rather die than face frozen winter’

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A disabled woman is facing another winter without heating at her Heath End home near Petworth after her pleas for help from her housing association landlords have gone unanswered.

Frances Gibbs, 52, has lived all her life in the semi-detached cottage at Heath End which was originally rented by her grandparents when it was newly built.

But her problems began when she was diagnosed with chronic asthma, emphysema and crippling arthritis in her hands several years ago.

She told the Observer she could no longer chop and cart the logs needed to fire the woodburner in her home which heats the eight radiators.

“I have applied for a disabled grant to change the system, people come and do estimates but nothing happens.

“It’s been going on for two years, I have had enough, I am cold enough now and it’s only going to get worse through the winter.”

Mrs Gibbs said she is forced to sit in several layers of clothes and covered in blankets to keep warm. She has an electric fire in the sitting room and one upstairs, but cannot keep them on because she is worried about fuel costs.

Several years ago the house was modernised and a boiler-backed woodburner was installed to heat the new radiators. There is no gas connection at the remote homes in Heath End.

Housing association Hyde Martlet also installed a special shower for Mrs Gibbs, who had found it increasingly difficult to wash herself.

“To begin with it wasn’t a problem at all,” said Mrs Gibbs. “I used to get lorry-loads of logs delivered and used the chainsaw myself to cut them up and cart them into the house to load the woodburner. But when my arthritis got worse and worse, I couldn’t carry the wood or empty the ash pan in the woodburner any longer. I just can’t cope with it.”

She said she and her son Nicky, who lives at Rustington, contacted Hyde Martlet for help: “but they said there was nothing wrong with the fire and nothing they could do to help. Then I applied for a disabled grant and as far as I know it went through.

“I’ve had about five different people come to measure for estimates since the beginning of the year but nothing ever happens.

“I contacted Hyde Martlet over and over again but I always get transferred from one person to another – it’s a never ending circle.”

In the meantime she says she dreads another winter after enduring freezing weather last year: “I haven’t got anywhere else to go, I am desperate, I want to die. I don’t want to go through another winter,” she told the Observer.