The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complained the Council gave planning permission for a neighbouring extension without fully considering the impact on his residential amenity and in particular without requiring a daylight/sunlight impact assessment. The Council properly considered the planning applications and used its professional judgement to determine any harm was not significant enough to warrant refusal. There was no fault by the Council.
- Mr X complained the Council gave planning permission for a neighbouring extension without fully considering the impact on his residential amenity and in particular without requiring a daylight/sunlight impact assessment.
- Mr X says the development will cause the skyline to disappear and prevent sunlight entering through his existing kitchen window.
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
- As part of the investigation, I have:
- considered the complaint and the documents provided by the complainant;
- discussed the issues with the complainant;
- sent my draft decision to both the Council and the complainant and invited their comments.
What I found
- In 2019 Mr X’s neighbour made two different planning applications to extend their property. The proposals included a rear extension and side extension and changes to the roof and a dormer. It is not clear to me which application the neighbour will implement and so I have considered how the Council dealt with both proposals.
- Mr X submitted objections to the applications. In particular he raised concerns about the impact on his property in terms of loss of sunlight/daylight, impact on privacy and effect on his outlook in respect of the skyline.
- A planning officer visited the site in order to assess the impact. This officer then prepared delegated decision reports in respect of both applications. On the whole the information in both reports is the same. It included details of the proposal, the planning history of the site, the relevant policies and guidance, a summary of Mr X’s objections and the case officer’s assessment of the proposal.
- The report states that the main issues for consideration are harm to the character and appearance of the existing building, the street scene and wider locality and whether harm would be caused to the living conditions of neighbouring residents.
- A detailed analysis of each part of the proposal was included and made specific reference to the impact on Mr X’s property. In respect of the ground floor rear extension it said the proposal was not considered to detrimentally harm Mr X’s residential amenities. It said this was due to positioning of Mr X’s rear wall which is about five metres further than the rear wall of the proposed extension. The officer’s view was that this would not be overbearing or result in an unacceptable loss of outlook and enclosure. The officer also said that having been on site, he did not consider the side window would cause a detrimental loss of privacy.
- In respect of the first floor rear extension the report acknowledged Mr X’s view regarding loss of sunlight and daylight but it took the view the impact would not be harmful to the extent to warrant refusal of the application.
- One of the applications included a ground floor and first floor side extension. The delegated report stated that the original proposal was considered to result in a harmful sense of enclosure and loss of outlook to the next door neighbour (not Mr X). An amendment was made to reduce this element which the Council considered made it acceptable.
- One application also included roof extensions. The officer’s assessment stated that the enlarged side dormer facing Mr X’s property was not considered to result in an unacceptable degree of overlooking or loss of privacy.
- The report stated the enlarged side dormer facing Mr X’s property was not considered to result in an unacceptable degree of overlooking and loss of privacy. It concluded that the proposal was not considered to unacceptably harm neighbouring amenity to an extent that would conflict with policy DMO1.
- The Council granted conditional planning permission to both applications in January 2020.
- Mr X says the Council has not properly assessed the impact of the proposed development on his residential amenity. He raises particular concerns about the loss of daylight/sunlight and believes that his objections should have prompted the Council to request the applicant to carry out a daylight assessment.
- Having considered the delegated reports and the other information on the Council’s planning file, I am satisfied the Council followed the correct procedure to consider these applications. Mr X was notified of the applications and had the opportunity to submit objections. His objections were summarised in the delegated decision report and therefore were taken into consideration as part of the determination process for the applications.
- Mr X believes a daylight assessment should have been requested as a result of his objections. There is no statutory requirement for the Council to request such an assessment. It could have used its discretion if it considered it necessary but it is not fault that one was not requested.
- I am satisfied the Council properly considered the impact of the proposal on Mr X’s residential amenity. The delegated decision report make specific reference to Mr X’s property and the impact of each element of the development. The Council does not say there will be no impact but rather that any impact would not be so detrimental as to warrant refusal. I appreciate that Mr X does not agree with the Council’s assessment of the proposal but the fact he disagrees is not evidence of fault.
- The Ombudsman is concerned with administrative process and not the merits of decisions properly taken even though people may disagree with them. There is no evidence of fault in the process followed to consider the applications. The Council considered all relevant material planning considerations and then used its professional judgement and took the view the proposals were acceptable. The delegated decision report shows there was consideration to the issues Mr X raised including impact on daylight/sunlight, loss of privacy and outlook.
- As there is no evidence of fault in the administrative procedure followed in this case there is no basis for me to criticise the decision made.
- I will now complete my investigation as there is no evidence of fault causing a significant injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman