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Mole Valley District Council (19 013 068)

Category : Environment and regulation > Noise

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 30 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman cannot investigate Mr X’s complaint that the Council wrongly served an abatement notice on him for noise nuisance. The complaint is outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction because Mr X used his right of appeal to court.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains the Council, in 2018, issued a noise nuisance abatement notice against him following a flawed investigation into a neighbour’s allegations that he was causing a nuisance. Mr X wants the Council to give assurances it will not take such action again and to pay compensation including for his legal costs in appealing the notice.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate a complaint if someone has started court action about the matter. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
  2. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered Mr X’s information and comments. I have obtained from the Council the abatement notice, the notice of appeal to court, and the complaint correspondence.

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What I found

  1. Mr X says he had a long running dispute with his neighbour about other matters. He had kept animals for many years when in 2018 the neighbour reported noise nuisance to the Council.
  2. In October 2018 the Council served an abatement notice on Mr X to stop the nuisance. The Council had made noise recordings of the noise and says an officer visited the site early one morning and heard noise coming from Mr X’s property. He says the Council is mistaken.
  3. In November 2018 Mr X’s solicitor appealed the notice to the Magistrates’ Court. The parties met and the Council agreed to withdraw the notice (which it says was technically defective).
  4. The Council did not re-issue the abatement notice because there had not been noise nuisance since the time the notice was issued. In 2019 it received a further complaint but did not find a nuisance.
  5. In November 2019 Mr X complained to the Ombudsman and we advised him he must first complain to the Council. Mr X’s stage 2 complaint to the Council says: ‘this complaint is about the whole procedure running into the issuing of the noise abatement notice’. The Council replied to Mr X’s complaints, explained its actions and refused his request for compensation.

Analysis

  1. The Ombudsman cannot investigate this complaint because it is outside our jurisdiction for the following reasons:
      1. A complaint cannot lawfully be investigated where a complainant has used a right of appeal to court (see paragraph 2 above). Mr X appealed the Council’s abatement notice to court. We cannot investigate actions which led to the decision to serve the notice.
      2. Events before November 2018 are outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction on the 12 month rule (see paragraph 3). Mr X complains late. I will not investigate any other matter because Mr X could have complained sooner. We cannot achieve what Mr X wants because the central issue is outside jurisdiction as explained in paragraph 11.
  2. The Council considered the neighbour’s further complaint of nuisance in 2019. There is no evidence of fault or injustice. It closed the case without taking action against Mr X.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint that the Council wrongly served an abatement notice on him for noise nuisance. The complaint is outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction because Mr X appealed to court.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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