Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 30 Oct 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mss Y complains the Council gave her the wrong advice when she completed an application for Prior Approval. She wants the application fee refunded. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint as we believe further investigation is unlikely to lead to a different outcome.
- The complainant, whom I will call Miss Y, says the Council gave her the wrong advice when completing an application form for Prior Approval for change of use of a property inside a conservation area. The application was refused, and Miss Y wants the application fee refunded.
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 further investigation will lead to a different outcome. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A (6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I consider the information provided by Miss Y, including the Council’s response to her. I also considered the documents on the planning pages of the Council’s website.
- Miss Y commented on the draft version of this decision.
What I found
- Miss Y applied for Prior Approval to change the use of a property.
- The online application form includes the question “Is any part of the lane, site or building within a conservation area?”
- Miss Y says when she answered “yes” to this question, she could not continue. She says she telephoned the Council and a member of staff told her to answer “no” to the conservation area question on the form. Miss Y completed the form, stating the property was not in a conservation area. The declaration at the end of the form states:
“I/ we confirm that, to the best of my/our knowledge, any facts stated are true and accurate and any opinions given are the genuine opinions of the person(s) giving them”
- She signed the declaration, knowing the information to be incorrect and submitted the application and fee to the Council.
- A planning officer prepared a report on the proposal. In noted the property is within a conservation area. Because of this the proposal did not meet the criteria for a change of use under Prior Approval. The Council had to refuse the application.
- Miss Y wants her application fee returned because she only stated the application was not in a conservation area because a member of staff told her to. However, as Miss Y says this was during a telephone call and there is no record of this statement. However, regardless of whether she was told to answer ‘no’ on the form, it remains that Miss Y signed the application as a true and knowingly submitted an inaccurate application form to the Council.
- I will not investigate this complaint. Without any supporting evidence, and considering the information in paragraph 10 above, it is unlikely that further investigation will lead to a different outcome.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman