Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 04 Mar 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about noise and fumes from a generator near the complainant’s home. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council to warrant investigation.
- The complainant, who I refer to here as Mr X, said that a generator used in a council project near his home created a disturbing noise and exacerbated his asthma. He also said his complaints were not handled properly.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we would find fault.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered information provided by Mr X and the Council. I also sent Mr X this draft decision and have considered his comments.
What I found
- In 2019 the council erected a water play area on the sea front. Due to delays in establishing a permanent power connection, a generator was initially used to power the splashpark. Mr X told us that this generator was situated within 20 yards of his flat and was operating 24 hours per day for some two months.
- Mr X complained to the Council that he was disturbed by noise from the generator and that fumes from it had set off his smoke alarm and caused a deterioration in his asthma. Responding, the Council said one of its environmental health officers had contacted Mr X but that he did not grant entry and the team had not heard from him again. Mr X denied that he had refused entry but accepted that he had been telephoned by a person claiming to be a Council contractor, who had suggested visiting his flat. Mr X said he told the caller this would only be appropriate if the visitor worked for the Council and “had the authority to resolve the issue”. Mr X said this phone call was not followed up by the Council and his own phone calls to the Council were not returned.
- Twelve days after Mr X’s first written complaint, he was contacted by a councillor who apologised for the delay and informed Mr X that the generator had now been disconnected. Mr X replied with a request for £5,000 compensation for the generator’s adverse impact on his health.
- The Council said that according to its contractors, the generator complied with current regulations and was designed for a Low Emission Zone. It asked Mr X to provide evidence of the ill effects he had suffered. Mr X then took his complaint to the Ombudsman. As well as complaining about the generator noise and fumes, he complained that the Council was negligent in its management of the splashpark’s construction, which led to the need for the generator. He requested a public apology and press statement.
- The Council is entitled to use a generator where it sees fit, therefore the Ombudsman will not investigate the circumstances that led to the generator’s installation. Following Mr X’s complaint, the Council arranged for a contractor to contact Mr X with a view to visiting his flat. Mr X’s position that the contractor’s visit would only be appropriate if the person concerned had the authority to resolve the issue was not reasonable. The purpose of the visit was to obtain objective evidence of noise levels in the flat. As the visit did not occur, there is no evidence with regards to noise. Mr X has not provided evidence of any impact on his health. While there was some delay in responding to Mr X’s complaints, the Council has apologised for this. There is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council to warrant investigation.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council to warrant investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman