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Swale Borough Council (17 016 399)

Category : Other Categories > Land

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 13 Mar 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman has no jurisdiction to investigate a complaint about a planning inquiry conducted by the Planning Inspectorate. He will not investigate a complaint that an officer lied after the inquiry. It is unlikely he would find evidence of fault unconnected to the inquiry causing the complainant significant injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Mrs B, has complained about the conduct of Council officers at a public inquiry conducted by the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). The inquiry was to consider an appeal against a planning enforcement notice served on a third party, Mr C. Mrs B says Council officers arrived late and lied at the inquiry and afterwards.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate. We can only consider complaints about bodies that are within our jurisdiction.
  2. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We may decide not to start an investigation if, for example, we believe:
    • it is unlikely we would find fault;
    • the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained; or.
    • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mrs B said in her complaint. Mrs B also commented on a draft before I made this decision. The Council also provided its responses to her concerns. I have also seen information about the planning appeal on the PINS website.

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What I found

  1. Mr C appealed against a planning enforcement notice served on him by the Council. Mrs B appeared at the inquiry as a witness for Mr C.
  2. Mrs B says her complaint is not about the inquiry itself but that an officer subsequently lied to her about her conduct. However, this is clearly in relation to what happened at the inquiry.
  3. PINS conducts planning appeals on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. It was for the Inspector hearing Mr C’s appeal to decide how to conduct the inquiry and what weight to give to any evidence.
  4. If Mrs B wished to challenge the Council’s evidence or its conduct, she should have done so at the inquiry. These are not matters we can consider.
  5. I do not consider the officer’s subsequent actions can have caused Mrs B injustice, unrelated to the inquiry, which justifies our involvement.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint because we have no jurisdiction to consider complaints about PINS and are unlikely to find evidence of other fault causing Mrs B significant injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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