The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: I have stopped investigating this planning complaint as the Council has not had the opportunity to investigate some of the issues and because any injustice from the impact of the highway design is not known at this stage.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr C, complains about the Council's consideration of a planning application to demolish existing buildings and redevelop a site to provide a retail food store and other facilities with a new roundabout access. In particular, Mr C says the Council did not properly consider highway issues and accepted a faulty traffic survey and inaccurate information about the impact of pedestrians on traffic flows.
- Mr C also complains it is not possible for the developer to implement the highway design accepted by the Council safely.
- Mr C says because of the Council's fault he will suffer from unnecessary safety hazards as a pedestrian and road user.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Ombudsman investigates complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. The Ombudsman cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. She must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3))
- The Ombudsman has the power to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within her jurisdiction. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8))
How I considered this complaint
- I read the papers provided by Mr C and discussed the complaint with him. I have explained my draft decision to Mr C and the Council and provided an opportunity for comment.
What I found
- The substantive complaint relates to highways information provided with or during the planning application process. Mr C raised several issues about the accuracy and quality of the information provided which he says the Council did not properly address during the decision making process.
- During my investigation it became clear the Council had not had a reasonable opportunity to investigate Mr C’s complaint about its consideration of the original planning application. Mr C would need to make a complaint about this to the Council and complete its complaints procedure. It would be open to Mr C to make a new complaint to the Ombudsman if he remained unhappy with the outcome of the Council’s complaint procedure.
- Mr C has also raised concerns about the feasibility and safety of the highway scheme to provide access to the site. The Council has confirmed the detailed design of the scheme is not finalised. The impact on Mr C from any such concerns is speculative at this stage. It would be open to Mr C to make a new complaint to the Ombudsman once an agreed design is implemented if his concerns remain.
- I have stopped investigating this complaint because:
- the Council has not had the opportunity to investigate the element of the complaint about its consideration of the original planning application; and
- any injustice from Mr C’s concerns about the impact or feasibility of the highway design is speculative at this stage.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman