The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mrs X complained about the Council’s decision to discharge a planning condition. We ended our investigation as it is unlikely to result in a finding of fault or a significant injustice to Mrs X that we can remedy.
- Mrs X complained about the Council’s decision to discharge a planning condition that was imposed on a planning permission it gave for a site that provides tourist and travel accommodation and facilities.
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, or
- it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
- it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
- we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I read the complaint and discussed it with Mrs X. I read the Council’s response to the complaint and considered documents from its planning files.
- I gave Mrs X and the Council now an opportunity to comment on a draft of this decision but received no responses.
What I found
Planning law and guidance
- Councils should approve planning applications that accord with policies in the local development plan, unless other material planning considerations indicate they should not.
- Planning considerations include things like:
- access to the highway;
- protection of ecological and heritage assets; and
- the impact on neighbouring amenity.
- views from a property;
- the impact of development on property value; and
- private rights and interests in land.
- The Council refused a planning application from the owner of a business that provides accommodation and services for tourists. The owner appealed to the planning inspectorate, who allowed the appeal, granting planning permission subject to conditions.
- One of the conditions controlled the internal layout, materials and colour of accommodation units, so that plans had to be submitted and approved in writing by the Council.
- The owner submitted details that were considered by planning officers and found to be acceptable. The Council wrote to the owner to say the requirements of the condition were satisfied.
- Mrs X complained about the Council’s decision. The rear of her home is several hundred metres away from the site.
- Before we begin or continue our investigations, we need evidence to show it is likely there was fault in the decision making process that caused the individual complainant a significant injustice by the Council’s actions. We rely on the injustice to the complainant to justify the disruptions our investigations inevitably cause to the day-to-day work of council officers and the pressure that is placed on the public purse.
- I will not continue to investigate this complaint, because:
- Mrs X lives a considerable distance from the site and so I cannot say that the Council’s decision to discharge the planning condition causes her a personal injustice.
- It is unlikely that further investigation would find fault, as the Council was aware of the material issues, the condition, the application, and its powers, before it made its decision. We are not an appeal body and do not comment on judgements that are made in the absence of fault in the decision making process.
- I ended my investigation as it is unlikely to result in a finding of fault or a significant injustice we can remedy.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman