The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: There was no fault by the Council in a complaint that alleged the Council failed to take enforcement action against light pollution from a football stadium.
- Mr X complains the Council failed to take enforcement action against alleged light pollution from a football stadium. Mr X says the issue of light egress was specifically covered in the original planning permission granted for the stadium.
- Mr X is concerned about the detrimental impact of the light pollution on wildlife, human health and quiet enjoyment of the South Downs National Park.
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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I examined the complaint and background information provided by Mr X and the Council. I discussed matters with Mr X by telephone. I sent a draft decision statement to Mr X and the Council and considered the comments of both parties on it.
What I found
- Mr X complained to the Council about light pollution at a football stadium. Mr X was concerned about glare from lights used at the stadium which interfered with his videoing and photographing of the landscape and night sky.
- Mr X asked the Council to act on planning conditions imposed as part of the planning permission granted to the stadium. Mr X also asked the Council to act on the basis of statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
- In terms of action in planning terms, the Council noted the light pollution Mr X referred to was caused by the use of grass growing lights at the stadium. It explained the lights did not constitute development under Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. So, the lights do not require planning permission from the Council. The Council’s view is that it does not have any legal planning grounds on which to take enforcement action.
- In terms of action under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Council explained it had to assess whether light from the stadium amounted to a statutory nuisance. Its assessment would take account of the character and duration of the light and how it affects the person complaining in their home. The Council emphasised the light must ‘unreasonably and substantially interfere with the use of enjoyment of a home or other premises’.
- The Council asked the signatories to a petition it received to provide diary sheets to aid its assessment. It says none of the diaries were returned. Given the absence of information on how the complainants are affected in their homes, the Council decided to close the case.
- Mr X says the light emissions from the stadium are on a scale that constitute an offence as a statutory public nuisance. He emphasises he did not allege a private nuisance which was the type of nuisance the Council investigated.
- I do not find fault by the Council in the matters raised here. The Council’s decisions whether on planning or environmental health grounds were properly taken.
- I note Mr X disagrees with the decisions and obtained legal advice questioning the validity of the decisions. However, it is not for the Ombudsman to consider whether a council’s decision is right or wrong but whether there was fault in the process leading to the decision. Here, the Council properly sought evidence on the alleged light pollution and reached its decisions having weighed the evidence it obtained and its duties. I am therefore satisfied there was no fault in the decision making process.
- There was no fault by the Council in the matters raised here.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman