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North Devon District Council (21 016 649)

Category : Planning > Enforcement

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 21 Mar 2022

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr X complains about lack of planning enforcement against a nearby development. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint because there is no evidence of fault by the Council and part of the complaint is out of time.

The complaint

  1. Mr X complains about lack of planning enforcement against a nearby development.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  2. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’, which we call ‘fault’. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint, which we call ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We do not start or may decide not to continue with an investigation if we decide:
  • there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating, or
  • any fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
  • any injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement.

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

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by the complainant and the Council.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.
  3. I considered the complainant’s comments on my draft decision.

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My assessment

  1. Mr X says that a nearby property built a tennis court not in accordance with planning permission. He says that the Council should have taken enforcement action against them.
  2. The Council granted planning permission for the court in October 2020. I am persuaded that a complaint about the planning permission itself could have reasonably have been made to the Ombudsman within 12 months. This complaint about the planning permission is therefore out of time.
  3. Mr X says that the court has not been built in accordance with the planning permission. A Planning Officer visited and confirmed that an acoustic barrier was in place and had established hedging. The Council concluded therefore that the planning permission had been properly complied with and there were no grounds for enforcement.
  4. The planning permission itself is out of jurisdiction but we are satisfied that the Council properly considered the request for enforcement action. I am satisfied that the Council properly investigated the matter. In the absence of procedural fault, it is not for the Ombudsman to question the merits of the Council‘s decision.

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Final decision

  1. I do not intend to investigate this complaint because there is no evidence of fault by the Council and the planning permission is out of time.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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