Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 23 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about the Council’s planning enforcement actions taken because she converted a property to flats and built an extension without planning permission. Miss X used her right of appeal to the Planning Inspector and the Ombudsman cannot therefore investigate.
- Miss X complains the Council’s planning officers behaved wrongly when taking enforcement action against her for converting a property to flats and building an extension without planning permission. Miss X says the Council failed to provide her with a service and officers made false statements supporting the enforcement notice. Miss X says the Council caused her significant financial loss and financial problems, embarrassment, stress and harm to her health.
- Miss X complains the Council failed to address her complaints and failed to answer her questions. She says it also failed to provide information and claimed it was confidential.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We cannot investigate a complaint if someone has appealed to a tribunal or a government minister or started court action about the matter. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6), as amended)
- The Planning Inspector acts on behalf of the responsible Government minister. The Planning Inspector considers appeals about a planning enforcement notice.
- The Information Commissioner's Office considers complaints about freedom of information. Its decision notices may be appealed to the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights). So where we receive complaints about freedom of information, we normally consider it reasonable to expect the person to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner.
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered Miss X’s information and comments, the Council’s final reply to her complaints, and the Planning Inspector’s decision on Miss X’s appeal.
What I found
- In 2016 the Council issued an enforcement notice requiring Miss X to remove 5 flats and demolish an extension all built without planning permission.
- In 2017 the Planning Inspector refused Miss X’s appeal against the enforcement notice. The Inspector considered the case issues including the time the development had been in place, whether the requirements of the notice were excessive, and the period allowed for compliance.
- Miss X says her complaint is about the Council’s failure to provide the service stated in its enforcement policy rather than the enforcement action. She says she has gone to the Planning Inspector and High Court about the enforcement action. She says officers made false statements supporting the enforcement notice and made fraudulent misrepresentations. She says an officer misrepresented his powers to take photographs and failed to respond to a challenge that the enforcement notice was defective.
- Miss X says the Council’s actions have affected her health. The enforcement action has caused financial losses, problems with her mortgage and she is struggling to reinstate the property to an attractive house.
- I will not investigate this complaint for the following reasons:
- The complaint is outside jurisdiction because Miss X used her right of appeal to the Planning Inspector (see paragraphs 3 and 4 above). The Ombudsman cannot lawfully investigate the actions of the planning officers on the enforcement case.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate the complaint handling. We cannot investigate the planning actions referred to in the complaint. The Council has replied to the complaint and does not need to do more.
- On the request for information, there is no separate injustice the Ombudsman could investigate. I understand Miss X got the information she wanted. If she did not she can seek advice from the Information Commissioner who has powers to deal with information and data protection complaints (see paragraph 5 above).
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Miss X’s complaint about the Council’s planning enforcement actions taken because she converted a property to flats and built an extension without planning permission. Miss X used her right of appeal to the Planning Inspector and the Ombudsman cannot therefore investigate.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman