The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complains about the Council’s handling of a planning application for a development close to his home. There was fault by the Council because it did not take proper account of the development’s impact on Mr X’s home before it determined the application. The Council agreed to a financial remedy that reflects the impact on Mr X.
- The complainant, whom I shall refer to here as Mr X, complains about the handling of a planning application for a development close to his home. Mr X says:
- Consultation with residents regarding the development was inadequate as residents on a particular road adjacent to the site were not directly notified.
- The planning case officer did not conduct a site visit.
- The impact of the development on his property was not fully or properly assessed by the Council.
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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), 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
- I considered the complaint and background information provided by Mr X and the Council. I discussed matters with Mr X by telephone. I sent a draft decision statement to Mr X and the Council. I considered the comments of both parties on it.
What I found
- The Council received a planning application for a two storey side extension at a property close to Mr X’s home. Mr X’s home directly adjoins the development site. The Council did not write to him directly to notify him of the application.
- The Council granted planning permission for the development. The decision was made by a case officer through delegated authority. The officer’s report did not refer to Mr X’s home.
- Mr X found out about the decision from the applicant. He contacted the case officer because the proposed extension would block light to two windows in his home.
- I have seen the email exchanges between Mr X and the officer. It is evident from the emails that the officer accepted she was unaware of the proximity of Mr X’s home to the application site. The application documents provided by the applicant suggested Mr X’s home was a storage unit.
- Mr X’s discussions with the case officer led to a conclusion that he submit a planning application for insertion of a new window in his home. This would have the effect of ameliorating the loss of light from the proposed development.
- The Council then issued a revised report on the neighbour’s planning application. This time the planning officer noted Mr X’s home and explained the development’s impact on it.
- Mr X obtained planning permission for the new window. Mr X reached this compromise solution with the Council at the time to reduce the severity of the development’s impact on his home. However, this was at his cost because he paid the application fee to the Council and then bears all the costs of the new window. Mr X says his total costs are in the region of £5000.
- Although he voluntarily agreed on this compromise solution with the Council, Mr X is unhappy with the Council’s role in the matter.
- I find fault with the Council’s handling of the planning application that is the subject of this complaint. I am satisfied the planning officer was unaware of Mr X’s property. On the balance of probabilities, I find the Council did not take account of the development’s impact on Mr X’s home when it determined the planning application.
- I also find fault because there was unreasonable delay by the Council when it considered various complaints Mr X made.
- Where we find fault by a council we must go on to consider the injustice to the complainant and a possible remedy for the injustice.
- In this case, the Council agreed to refund the fee Mr X paid for the planning application he made for the new window. It also agreed to make a contribution towards the costs Mr X incurred. This is a sum of £1000.
- The Council should be mindful of delays in its handling of complaints it receives. I urge officers to review their working practices to reduce the occurrence of delays.
- There was fault by the Council which caused Mr X an injustice. The Council agreed a financial remedy for the injustice.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman