The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complains the Council failed to protect her amenity after her neighbour built development in breach of the grant of planning approval. The Council has agreed to take action to remedy the complaint.
- Mrs X complains the Council has failed to properly protect her amenity, after her neighbour’s development was not built in accordance with plans.
What I have investigated
- I read the complaint and discussed it with Mrs X. I read the Council’s response to the complaint and discussed it with an officer.
- I gave Mrs X and the Council an opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
What I found
- Councils should approve planning applications that accord with policies on the local development plan, unless other material planning considerations indicate otherwise.
- Protection of amenity and adequate space around and between buildings are planning considerations. Some councils have supplementary guidance on separation distances, but generally 21 metres between habitable room windows is considered acceptable.
- Councils may take enforcement action where they find a breach of planning control. Planning enforcement action is discretionary and guidance says formal action should only be taken if it would be a proportionate response.
- Mrs X’s neighbour had planning permission to build an annex on land near her boundary. The neighbour built the annex a little higher and 3 metres closer to the boundary than was agreed in the approved plans.
- Mrs X says the window on the side of the annex causes an impact on her amenity. She complained to the Council, suggesting the problem could be resolved by fixing the side window of the annex shut and requiring it to be obscurely glazed.
- The Council’s enforcement officer visited the site and found a breach of planning control, but the Council did not consider further action was justified. Mrs X then complained to the Ombudsman.
- In response to my initial enquiries, the Council said that, having had a further opportunity to consider the situation, it considers Mrs X’s suggestion to obscure and fix-shut the window to be reasonable. It will approach the neighbour and attempt to negotiate these changes. If it fails to secure satisfactory changes, it will consider using its enforcement powers.
- The Council has agreed with Mrs X that further action is necessary to protect her amenity.
- I will end my investigation and allow the Council to continue in its efforts to secure improvements through negotiation and, if necessary, enforcement action. If, once this process is complete, Mrs X remains dissatisfied, she may come back to the Ombudsman.
- The Council will attempt to negotiate a satisfactory resolution with the developer and, if these negotiations fail, it will consider whether it can and should use its planning enforcement powers.
- The Council will report back to the Ombudsman and the complainant on its progress within three months from the date of our final decision.
- I have ended my investigation to allow the Council to resolve the complaint. The complainant may return to the Ombudsman if she remains dissatisfied once the Council’s negotiations or any subsequent enforcement action is complete.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman