Complaint from a couple and their neighbour that the council did not tell them about a major planning application which affected their homes. This denied them the opportunity to have their objections and their amenity considered. By retrospectively changing plans on the decision notice, the council denied them the opportunity to apply for judicial review.
The investigation found the council did not publicise the planning application properly; it was unclear about the site boundary; it did not give proper consideration to the complainants' amenity; it did not consider the drainage arrangements and it listed the wrong plans in the decision notice.
The Ombudsman upheld the complaint and found fault causing injustice.
To remedy the injustice caused, the council should, within the next three months:
- ask the District Valuer to assess the current value of the complainants' two properties and the value that would have been attributed to each of the properties in the event that the development had been constructed in the accordance with the plans previously agreed. The council should pay the couple the difference between the two valuations on their property and it should pay their neighbour the difference between the two valuations on hers. Unless the council has a legally binding arrangement in place for the developer to replace the Devon hedgebank, the current valuations should make no assumptions about its ability to provide screening:
- pursue the proposals in its drainage report. If the soakaways are deficient and it is not able to take appropriate remedial action against the developer, it should remedy the deficiencies so far as are necessary to protect the complainants' properties and this work should be complete before the onset of winter. Engineers commissioned by the council have said how, as a last resort, a drain could be laid along the footpath on land the council owns;
- apologise to the couple and their neighbour and pay each £500 in recognition of the time and trouble to which they have been put, the frustration they have experienced and their consequent loss of confidence in the council; and
- arrange for all members of its planning committee to have at least one day's training from professionally qualified planning officers who are not employed by the council. The purpose of the training should be to ensure members are equipped and confident to challenge the view of planning officers prior to making decisions.