West Sussex County Council (16 016 982)

Category : Other Categories > Land

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 15 Mar 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complained about the Council’s failure to maintain a planted area between the pavement and her boundary fence. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. There is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council which has caused injustice to Mrs X.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall call Mrs X, complains about the Council’s failure to maintain plants in a planted area next to her boundary fence. As a result she says she cannot properly maintain her fence and weeds are blown into her garden at certain times of year.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered all the information which Mrs X submitted with her complaint. I have also considered the Council’s response and Mrs X has been given an opportunity to comment on the draft decision.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X says she has complained about a Council-owned planted area between her boundary fence and the pavement since 2015. The area was previously maintained by the local town council but now it is the highways authority’s responsibility. She says the plants within it are overgrown and cause weeds to seed in her garden. She also says the vegetation prevents her from creosoting her fence on the road side.
  2. She complained to the Council in 2015 and it agreed to cut back the plants at the end of the flowering season. She complained again in 2016 and this time the Council told her it has insufficient resources to maintain the planter. It told her that it does not consider the vegetation to be a hazard to pedestrians and that there is sufficient room for her to maintain her fence. Mrs X says she disagrees with the Council’s view and it is spoiling her enjoyment of her garden.
  3. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. 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. The Council has investigated Mrs X’s complaint and does not believe she is prevented from maintaining the fence.
  4. The Ombudsman cannot resolve the dispute between Mrs X and the Council. If she believes her property is being affected by the Council’s negligence then she will need to seek legal advice.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. There is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council which has caused injustice to Mrs X.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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