Sedgemoor District Council (13 015 068)

Category : Planning > Planning applications

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 02 Sep 2014

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs B’s complaint that the Council has delayed agreeing the terms of a section 106 agreement and has not issued a decision notice on their planning application. Mr and Mrs B can make an appeal to the Planning Inspector as the Council has not determined their application. It is reasonable to expect Mr and Mrs B to use their right of appeal because the Planning Inspector can review the information and issue a decision notice if they consider it appropriate.

The complaint

  1. The complainants, whom I shall call Mr and Mrs B, say the Council has taken more than two years to finalise a section 106 agreement and this is delaying the grant of planning permission.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The law says the Ombudsman cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a government minister. However, she may decide to investigate if she considers it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(b))
  2. The Planning Inspector acts on behalf of the responsible Government minister. The Planning Inspector considers appeals about:
  • delay – usually over eight weeks – by an authority in deciding an application for planning permission
  • a decision to refuse planning permission
  • conditions placed on planning permission
  • a planning enforcement notice.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered the information Mr and Mrs B provided when they made their complaint. I sent a statement of my provisional views to Mr and Mrs B and invited comments.

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What I found

  1. In November 2011, Mr and Mrs B applied for outline planning permission to build on land. “Outline” permission establishes the principles of whether development is permitted, with the details of the scheme provided later.
  2. The Council decided to approve Mr and Mrs B’s application in June 2011, subject to certain conditions being met and a section 106 agreement being approved that dealt with matters such as drainage and flood defences. A section 106 agreement details obligations a developer must meet as a condition of planning approval. They allow local authorities to negotiate contributions from developers to services and infrastructure.
  3. The section 106 agreement is still not finalised and it is over two years since the Council made this a condition of granting outline planning permission. The Council says the delay is because a third party is required to take action and this has slowed matters down. Mr and Mrs B cannot make any further progress with their intentions to develop the site until the Council has issued a decision notice confirming approval of the outline planning application.
  4. The Planning Inspector can consider appeals made where a local planning authority has failed to make a decision on a planning application within a set period of time. As the Council has not issued a decision notice, Mr and Mrs B have a right to make an appeal. It is reasonable to expect Mr and Mrs B to contact the Planning Inspector and use their right of appeal, because the Inspector is best placed to decide whether a decision notice should now be issued.
  5. If the Council has been unable to finalise the section 106 agreement because of complications arising from the actions of a third party, it is unlikely that even if the Ombudsman investigated Mr B and Mrs B’s complaint she would be able to find fault by the Council.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr and Mrs B’s complaint because they can make an appeal to the Planning Inspector about the Council’s failure to issue a decision notice on their planning application.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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