The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Council was not at fault for the way it approved planning permission for a development near to Mr X’s home.
- Mr X complains the Council approved planning permission for a development near his home without considering a previous Planning Inspectorate decision. As a result Mr X says trees will be damaged on the application site which should be protected.
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)
- We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- 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)
- 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
- As part of this investigation I considered the complaint from Mr X and the Council’s responses. I discussed the complaint with Mr X over the telephone. I made enquiries with the Council and considered the information received in response. I sent a draft of this decision to Mr X and the Council and considered comments received in response.
What I found
- Mr X lived near a site which had apartment buildings on it. In late 2019 a developer sought planning permission to demolish the apartment buildings and build a care home.
- Mr X objected to the proposed development and raised concerns about the development being too big for the area and parking. Mr X also raised concerns about the trees on the site as there were trees with tree protection orders in place.
- In December 2019 the Council approved planning permission for the development. The application was decided by the Council’s Planning Committee. The planning permission contained several conditions, two of which related to the trees on the site subject to Tree Preservations Orders being protected and all existing trees and hedges being protected by fencing during building works.
- In February 2020 building works started at the site. In March 2020 Mr X contacted the Council and reported the developer had breached the conditions in the planning permission relating to the protection of trees. The Council visited the site and decided the developer was not in breach of planning conditions.
- In June 2020 Mr X reported the developer had breached the planning conditions relating to the protected trees. The Council visited the site and decided the developer had breached planning conditions and told the developer to stop work.
- In July 2020 the developer made an application to amend the planning conditions relating to the protected trees. Mr X objected to this application. Among the issues he raised was the destruction to trees on the site which were protected. The Council approved the planning application in November 2020.
- Mr X complained to the Ombudsman the Council did not properly consider the original planning application for a care home at the site. Mr X said the Council failed to consider a previous decision by the Planning Inspectorate which dismissed an appeal for the development of apartments, on the grounds that trees protected by tree preservation orders would be at risk of harm.
- Mr X said he only became aware about this application recently so did not raise this earlier after the Council approved the planning application in December 2019.
- The Council was not at fault for failing to consider this previous Planning Inspectorate decision. The planning officer’s report provided to the Planning Committee gives a background to the application site. This mentions the Council refused planning permission in 2006 and the developer appealed to the Planning Inspectorate. The report to the Planning Committee mentions the Planning Inspectorate’s conclusions, namely that the proposed development would likely result in future demands for the trees at the front of the site to be removed. Therefore the members of the Planning Committee were provided with details about this previous decision before deciding to approve planning permission for the development of a care home on the site.
- The report to the Planning Committee discusses the impact of the development, planning policies and the trees on the site. It is up to the Committee members what weight they give to material planning considerations, such as previous applications, when coming to a decision. I find the Council had before it all relevant information when deciding the application and so acted without fault in its decision.
- I have completed my investigation and found the Council was not at fault for the way it decided a planning application near to Mr X’s home.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman