Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 31 Mar 2017
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complains about the Council’s decision on his planning application and the subsequent response to his enquiries. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr X’s complaint. He could have appealed the Council’s planning decision. Any injustice to Mr X from any delay in the Council providing advice is not enough to justify an investigation.
- The complainant, who I shall call Mr X, complains about the way the Council handled his planning application. He says the officer told him there would be no problem; then refused the application. He says he is aggrieved at the misinformation the Council gave him and the advice the Council gave him about permitted development.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
- it is unlikely we would find fault, or
- the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or
- the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a government minister. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(b))
- The Planning Inspector acts on behalf of the responsible Government minister. The Planning Inspector considers appeals about a decision to refuse planning permission.
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered the information Mr X provided when he spoke to our Intake Team to make the complaint and the Council’s replies to his complaint to it. Mr X has had the opportunity to comment on an earlier version of my final view.
What I found
- Mr X wanted to extend his property. He had a meeting with the Council where he says he was told the development he proposed was allowed elsewhere in the city. He then applied to the Council to redevelop his home’s roof space.
- A Planning Officer visited Mr X’s home and said they did not think there would be a problem approving the application. The Council then realised it had made a mistake with the description of the application and had to re-consult Mr X’s neighbours. Because of this delay Mr X lost the finance he had arranged to pay for the development.
- The Council then refused Mr X’s planning application. Its reasons were the style of roof extension proposed was unacceptable and there were too many skylights proposed on the front of the building. Mr X had 12 weeks from the decision to appeal to the Planning Inspector about the refusal.
- Mr X did not appeal. He discussed the refusal with the Planning Officer and made a complaint to the Council about what had happened.
- The Council suggested three alternatives – Mr X could appeal its decision, he could resubmit the application unchanged or he could submit a revised application. The Council suggested if he wished to make a revised application it could give him advice on what might be acceptable.
- It then arranged a meeting with Mr X to discuss his complaint. At the meeting the Planning Officer said when they visited they missed that the sort of roof Mr X proposed was not acceptable. They apologised for Mr X for this mistake.
- The Council said it would send him information on what options were available and what development he could build without needing planning permission under his permitted development rights.
- There was a slight delay in the Council sending this information to Mr X. When it replied it explained as he lived in a conservation area changes to the roof were not permitted without planning permission. It suggested the sort of application that it might approve.
- I cannot consider how the Council decided Mr X’s planning application. It would have been reasonable of him to appeal the refusal to the Planning Inspector as this is how Parliament has said such disputes should be resolved.
- I appreciate this has been a frustrating experience for Mr X. The Council has now given Mr X the advice it said it would. I do not think any delay in doing this is such to have caused enough injustice to Mr X to require an investigation.
- I will not investigate Mr X’s complaint. It would have been reasonable for him to have appealed the Council’s decision on his planning application and any injustice from the delay in the Council providing information is not enough to justify an investigation.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman