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City of York Council (21 005 049)

Category : Environment and regulation > Trees

Decision : Upheld

Decision date : 05 Nov 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the removal of trees from a local park. This is because the Council has already offered a proportionate remedy and there is not enough significant injustice remaining to justify our investigation.

The complaint

  1. Mr Y complains the Council removed trees planted by his local resident’s association, of which he is a member, from a local park and has replanted them in another park a mile away. Mr Y complains the Council did this without communicating with the local resident’s first.
  2. Mr Y says he felt shocked and upset by the removal of the trees and feels a sense of outrage at the Council’s failure to communicate prior to the removal.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))
  2. The Ombudsman will not investigate a complaint if the Council has already provided a proportionate remedy.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered the information Mr Y provided and the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. Mr Y, as a member of his local resident association, planted a number of trees in a local park in October 2020. Two of the trees were dedicated by members of the association to family members who had died.
  2. In March 2021, the Council removed the trees without notice. Mr Y says this caused him and others, upset and shock as the local resident association had not been told about the tree removal beforehand. He complained to the Council in April.
  3. The Council responded in September 2021. It said it had been asked to remove the trees following concerns from residents about the impact of the trees on their properties once the trees grew bigger. It said it had relocated the trees nearby to give them the best opportunity to grow. While it denied fault for removing the trees, it upheld the complaint and agreed that it should have communicated with residents to make them aware of the removal before it happened. It apologised for this and offered, as a gesture of good will, to place a memorial bench in the park in the names of those whom the two trees had been dedicated to.
  4. Mr Y told the Council it was unlikely residents would want a bench, as it may lead to incidents of anti-social behaviour in the area. He then asked us to investigate the issue in October 2021.

Analysis

  1. The Council has confirmed that the trees have not been removed and have been relocated. It did this at a point when the trees are most likely to be able to continue to grow healthily and is not a significant distance from where they were originally placed. This means anyone who had dedicated a tree will not need to travel a significant distance should they wish to visit the moved tree in future.
  2. The Council admitted its poor communication with Mr Y and residents. It apologised. In doing this it has recognised Mr Y’s experience. It has also offered to place a memorial bench in the park, dedicated as the trees had been.
  3. The Council’s actions provided Mr Y with a proportionate remedy to the complaint. Further, any remaining injustice is not significant enough to justify our investigation. For these reasons we will not investigate this complaint.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr Y’s complaint because the Council has already offered a proportionate remedy and there is not enough significant injustice remaining to justify our investigation.

Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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