The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X complained about the Council’s decision to approve development on land next to his home. Mr X said the use of the land will affect his health. There was no fault in the way the Council made its planning decision.
- Mr X complained about the Council’s decision to allow development on land next to his home, which he said affects his amenity because of an increase in daytime noise.
- Mr X said he suffers from a medical condition which means he needs to sleep during the day and is concerned the use of the land will affect his health.
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
- I read the complaint and invited Mr X to discuss it with me. I read the Council’s response to the complaint and considered documents from its planning files, including the plans and the case officer’s report.
- I gave Mr X and the Council an opportunity to comment on an earlier draft of this decision and took account of the comments I received before making a final decision.
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 amenities, which include protection from noise, and loss of light and privacy.
- Views from a property;
- The impact of development on property value; and
- Private rights and interests in land.
- The occupiers of land next to Mr X submitted a planning application to demolish a building and construct a replacement on another part of the site. This meant that there would no longer be structures between Mr X’s home and a new play area. Mr X also complains that windows will now overlook his home and garden.
- Mr X was concerned about how his health might be affected by increased noise levels, so objected to the application.
- The planning application was considered by a case officer, who wrote a report which included:
- A description of the proposal and site;
- A summary of planning history considered relevant;
- Comments from neighbours, including Mr X’s about noise, and from other consultees;
- Planning policy and guidance considered relevant;
- An appraisal of the main planning considerations, including impact on residential amenity and highway safety. The officer said that, because of significant distances between the development and neighbours, there would not be a significant impact on amenities; and
- The officer’s recommendation to approve the application, subject to planning conditions.
- We are not a planning appeal body. Our role is to review the process by which planning decisions are made. We look for fault in the decision-making process, and if we find it, we decide whether it caused an injustice to the complainant.
- In this case, before a decision was made, the Council considered the application plans, comments from consultees, including Mr X, and relevant planning policy, guidance and planning history. The case officer’s report mentions Mr X’s concern about noise and goes on to consider the impact on residential amenities.
- It has followed the planning decision making process we expect, so I find no fault.
- Even if there was some fault in the way the Council made its decision, it is unlikely that I would be able to recommend a remedy for the injustice Mr X claims, because:
- Planning decisions control the use and development of land, and they are based on planning considerations that would apply to any individual, regardless of their personal circumstances. While I recognise the difficulties Mr X’s medical condition must cause him, the Council did not use his personal circumstances as a reason to control the development and use of land owned by his neighbours, and we cannot say it should have done so.
- While some individuals might choose their homes because of their quiet locations, without some private legal right they can assert, they cannot prevent or control change happening around them on land they do not own or occupy.
- Children’s play areas, parks and similar places are found alongside residential areas. Councils do not generally require noise protection features, like buffer zones, earth bunds or soundproof fencing, between these areas and residential dwellings.
- It is unlikely that we would find that daytime noise from play areas is unacceptable in residential areas.
- I completed my investigation as I found no fault in the way the Council made its planning decision.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman