Complaints about the publicity given to a planning application
This fact sheet is aimed primarily at people who believe that the council has failed to advise them of a planning application that may affect them and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.
The council did not tell me about a planning application. Can the Ombudsman help me?
- Yes, in some circumstances. If you believe that the council failed to tell you about a planning application and you were not able to object then you can complain to us.
- But we are unlikely to uphold your complaint if it turns out that the council followed the proper procedures, relevant legislation and guidance on the publicity of applications; or if you were not directly affected by the development.
- If you find out about a planning application and want to object, you should ask the council if you still have time to make an objection. If there is still time, you need to write to the council as soon as possible giving your reasons why you think the application should not be approved.
- If the council tells you that the consultation period on the application has finished, you may be able to ask a councillor to contact council officers on your behalf about your concerns.
- The Ombudsman cannot normally consider a complaint about an application until a decision has been made. This is because, even if a council has done something wrong, we do not know until that point whether the fault will affect the outcome.
How do I complain?
- You should normally complain to the council first. Councils often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and you will usually have to complete all stages before we will look at your complaint.
- Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter – we think 12 weeks is reasonable – you can complain to us.
- You should normally make your complaint to us within 12 months of realising that the council has done something wrong.
- To complain to the Ombudsman phone our helpline on 0300 061 0614 (8.30am to 5.00pm, Mondays to Fridays). You will be able to discuss your complaint with one of our advisers. You can text us on 0762 480 3014.
- You can complete an online complaint form
If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?
We look at whether someone lost the chance to object in writing, or speak at a committee, because the council failed to publicise an application properly. We will also consider whether a development would still have been approved, or if a planning permission might have been given with different conditions, if someone had made an objection. Depending on the council's procedures and the law, some faults we might find are that the council:
- did not send you a notification letter;
- did not put up a site notice, or only put a notice in a place where few people would see it;
- wrongly described the development or gave inaccurate or misleading information about the application in its letters and site notices (for example ‘two storey’ instead of ‘three storey’);
- did not consult with other bodies when it should have done (for example, English Heritage, for listed buildings or English Nature, for wildlife conservation);
- failed to place a press advertisement (for some major schemes or development affecting conservation areas and listed buildings); or
- did not consult you on amended plans, where these increased the impact of the development on you.
What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?
It depends on the fault and what the consequences have been for you. We cannot force the council to overturn the planning decision or remove the development. But:
- If other people put objections that were considered and were similar to the one you would have made if you had known about the application, we may ask the council to give you an apology.
- If you were likely to be directly affected by a development, but there did not appear to be fault in how the application and your likely concerns were considered, we may ask the council to make you a payment of up to £250 for your outrage in not being told about the proposal at the outset.
- If there was no fault in the handling of the application otherwise, but you were potentially directly affected and lost the chance to speak at a committee, we may recommend that the council should make you a payment of £250-£500 for a lost opportunity to have your say.
- If your objection might have led to a better outcome and you have been left not knowing if this might have been the case, we may ask the council to make a larger payment of £500-£1,000 for your outrage, lost opportunity and uncertainty.
- If you were directly affected and your objection would probably have led to a better outcome, we may ask the council to arrange for a ‘before and after’ valuation of your home and pay you any difference between the valuations; pay for measures to reduce the impact of the development; or take other steps, such as asking the developer if he is willing to make changes to the permitted scheme, if not yet built.
We may also ask for compensation for the time, trouble or expense you were put to in pursuing your complaint.
If we find fault with the council’s procedures, we will often recommend that the council introduces changes so that the same problem does not occur again in the future.
Examples of some complaints we have considered
Mr T lived in a semi-detached property. He complained that the council failed to tell him about a planning application for a two-storey extension to the house next to his home. He said he was denied the chance to object and would have done so on several grounds. The application would not then have been determined by officers as councillors would have asked for it to go to committee for decision. We found that the council was at fault in not notifying Mr T as he was prevented from putting his views to the council before it reached its decision. But it was unlikely that there would have been an entirely different outcome if he had objected. We asked the council to pay Mr T £750 for his lost opportunity to object.
Mrs S complained that the council did not consult her about amended plans for a development next door and she felt badly affected by the new plans. The council consulted her (and others) when the application was first received and asked the applicant for amended plans to take account of objections. The amended plans included an alteration to the side elevation nearest to Mrs S’s home, which the council had not requested.
The council did not consult Mrs S on the amended plans as it considered they represented an improvement. Mrs S would have objected to the amended plans if she had been given the opportunity. She did not know if she might have been able to achieve further changes to the development to lessen its impact on her amenity. We found that Mrs S had suffered as a result and recommended that the council should pay her compensation based on the difference in the valuation of her property with the original proposed development built next to it, and the valuation of her property with the development for which the council had given consent. We also asked the council to pay her £250 for the time and trouble she was put to in pursuing her complaint.
Other sources of information
Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please phone 0300 061 0614.
The Local Government Ombudsmen provide a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result the Ombudsmen aim to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.
Date Updated: 27/03/13