The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complained the Council did not inform him that it had allowed a developer to carry out works that will cause noise and disturb him. There was no fault in the way the Council has acted.
- Mr X says the Council failed to notify him it had granted permission to a developer to carry out works that causes disturbance to him. Mr X also thinks working practices on the building site are not safe.
- Mr X says he suffers from health problems, so was particularly affected by the work that was carried out very close to his home.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
- 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)
How I considered this complaint
- I read the complaint and discussed it with Mr X. I read the Council’s response to the complaint and considered relevant sections of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and guidance on the Act issued by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).
- I gave the Council and Mr X an opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision but received no comments to consider.
What I found
- Council Environmental Health officers can serve abatement notices against individuals who cause nuisance through noise, dust or vibration.
- Developers who consider that works they intend might cause a nuisance, can seek ‘prior approval’ from the Council. The Council will consider the proposal and may allow or refuse the works to continue. If the Council approves the application, it may impose conditions to control the works.
- The Council’s powers are found in the Control of Pollution Act 1974. Guidance on publicity issued by CIEH says it is good practice for developers to inform residents of the terms of prior approval decisions. They should warn residents of the consequences of works and give contact details of site managers.
- Safety on building sites is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive.
- Mr X lives directly opposite a site that is being developed. The development works cause significantly high levels of noise and Mr X is likely to be disturbed.
- Before the work began, the developer sent a prior-notification application to the Council asking for permission to carry out the works. The Council considered the application and approved it, subject to conditions including controls on working hours. The permission controls working hours and requires noise and vibration monitoring.
- The developer has since sought permission for an extension to the prior notification application, which was granted by the Council. This is a major development and work is likely to continue into the spring of 2021.
- Mr X did not know about the work until it started. He complained to the Council because noise seriously disturbed him. Mr X wanted the Council to control the noise more than it had required through its conditions or to provide alternative accommodation for him. Mr X lives in Housing Association accommodation.
- Mr X also thinks working practices on the site are unsafe.
- The Council told Mr X that it was for the developer, not the Council, to publicise the works. The Council said it understood site notices were put on hoardings and in a newsletter sent to residents.
- I read the relevant sections of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and the guidance issued by CIEH. I found no obligation on the Council to do more than it has. Disturbance from building work is sometimes unavoidable, though councils may impose controls to balance the rights of developers against the amenities of neighbours.
- The Council is not responsible for enforcing regulations relating to safe working practices on building sites. This is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive.
- I have completed my investigation as I found no fault in the way the Council acted.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman