Dacorum Borough Council (22 017 552)

Category : Planning > Enforcement

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 26 Apr 2023

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s handling of enforcement matters in relation to an area of land within the green belt where Mr X owns a piece of land. This is because an investigation is unlikely to add to that already undertaken by the Council or lead to a different outcome.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I call Mr X, complains the Council has delayed in taking enforcement action in relation to planning breaches within an area of green belt where he owns a piece of land. He says it has failed to give a realistic estimated timeframe for enforcement action as required by an earlier Ombudsman decision and that it has not followed its own complaints procedure.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate 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, or
  • we could not add to any previous investigation by the organisation, or
  • further investigation would not lead to a different outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Mr X and the Council, including its response to his complaint.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. Mr X made an earlier complaint to the Ombudsman about its handling of planning enforcement matters concerning the same area of land. We upheld his complaint finding that there had been some errors and some delays by the Council. As part of our recommendations to resolve the complaint, we asked the Council to remind its officers that when asked to do so they should provide realistic estimated timescales of the next steps in its enforcement process and to review the enforcement cases within the area of land in question and to provide Mr X with the timescales for its next steps in the enforcement process.
  2. The Council continued to investigate the area and opened further enforcement cases in relation to it. It has written to Mr X on a number of occasions to update him on progress. However, following a further complaint made by Mr X the Council acknowledged it had not updated him about what enforcement action was being taken in relation to a case concerning a mobile home as it had agreed to do following his earlier Ombudsman complaint. It apologised to Mr X for this and upheld his complaint on this point.
  3. Following our initial enquiries to the Council, it has confirmed it has now written to Mr X with a further update on the mobile home case and has said he will receive an update on all the enforcement cases relating to the land next month as part of its regular correspondence with him.
  4. While there was some delay in relation to the mobile home case, this has now been actioned and Mr X has received updates about how other enforcement cases have been progressing.
  5. We do not investigate every complaint we receive and in this case I do not consider an investigation would usefully add to that already undertaken by the Council or lead to a significantly different outcome.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Mr X’s complaint because an investigation is unlikely to add to that already undertaken by the Council or lead to a different outcome.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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