North Devon District Council (16 013 234)

Category : Planning > Enforcement

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 03 Aug 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint about the Council’s failure to take further enforcement action against a nearby landowner. The issue has not caused Mr X significant injustice.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr X, complains the Council has not done enough to enforce against a breach of planning control in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

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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
  • 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, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I reviewed the details of Mr X’s complaint, the Council’s response and the planning documents, which are available on its website. I shared my draft decision with Mr X and discussed it with him.

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What I found

  1. The Council became aware of a possible breach of planning control by a landowner who lives near to Mr X in early 2015. It discussed the breach with the landowner and invited him to make a formal application for planning permission to regularise the situation. The landowner made an application but the Council rejected it; it then issued an enforcement notice requiring the landowner to remove the offending structure. The landowner appealed to the Planning Inspectorate but the Planning Inspector dismissed his appeal.
  2. Almost two months after the deadline for the landowner’s compliance with the enforcement notice, Mr X complained to the Council that it had not taken further enforcement action. In response the Council explained it had invited the landowner to make a second application and that it had decided it would not take further action in the meantime. I understand this application is still under consideration by the Council.
  3. Mr X wrote to the Ombudsman to complain and was referred back to the Council in the first instance. He put his complaint to the Council but has yet to receive a substantive response.
  4. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. Although Mr X lives in the landowner’s vicinity the structure itself does not cause him significant injustice. While he may have some frustration that it has been allowed to stand for more than two years despite the Council’s acceptance that it amounts to a breach of planning control and is unacceptable in its current position, because he is not adversely affected by it there is no basis for the Ombudsman to investigate his complaint further.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint as the Council’s actions have not caused Mr X significant injustice.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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