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Trafford Council (17 016 063)

Category : Other Categories > Land

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 01 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about a dispute over who owns some land. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault and injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mrs X, complains that the Council has failed to force a resident to stop using land that belongs to the Council.

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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 an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement.

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

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the Council’s response. I looked at images of the disputed strip of land on Google Streetview. I considered comments Mrs X made in response to a draft of this decision and got an update from the Council regarding ownership of the land.

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What I found

  1. There is a house about 500m from where Mrs X lives. The house had a grass verge running down the side of the property. There is a driveway in the middle of the verge. Mrs X told the Council that the owners had planted bushes and widened the drive.
  2. The Council contacted the owners and established that ownership of the land is unclear. The Council asked the owners not to do any further work on the land until ownership had been established.
  3. Mrs X says the Council owns the land. She says the bushes are unsightly and growing quickly. Mrs X says it may encourage other people to develop land that does not belong to them and lead to the loss of more green space.
  4. The Council is still considering how it should approach the issue of ownership and management of the land. It appears the Council might own the land but it does not have the documents to prove it. The Council may take action to establish ownership.

Assessment

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. This is because the Council has contacted the owners and asked them not to do any further work until ownership has been established. The Council cannot decide whether to require the owners to take remedial action until the ownership issue has been resolved. The Council is currently considering how best to take the matter forward. It may be that this is taking some time to resolve but there is nothing to indicate that this is an issue that needs to be dealt with as a priority and, as explained below, there is no direct impact on Mrs X.
  2. I also will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of injustice. Mrs X is not directly affected. She does not own the land, is not an immediate neighbour and lives nearly half a kilometre away. I appreciate Mrs X would prefer to see grass rather than bushes but this is not an injustice which requires an investigation by the Ombudsman.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault and injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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