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North Devon District Council (21 009 964)

Category : Planning > Planning applications

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 15 Nov 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate this complaint about the Council’s handling of a planning application. This is because there is no evidence to suggest there was fault by the Council.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to as Ms X, says there was fault in the way the Council dealt with her planning application and that the planning officer colluded with a neighbour to stop her application obtaining planning permission.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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)

We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We do not start an investigation if we decide there is not enough evidence of fault to justify investigating. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I considered information provided by Ms X and the Council, including its responses to the complaint.
  2. I considered the Ombudsman’s Assessment Code.

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My assessment

  1. Ms X complained to the Council that the time it had taken to finally grant permission for her planning application had been the result of collusion between her neighbour and the planning officer dealing with the case trying to stop her obtaining permission.
  2. The Council responded to Ms X under its complaints procedure but it did not uphold the complaint as it found no evidence to support her allegations. It set out a clear chronology of the events that had taken place following the submission of her application. It explained delay had occurred because Ms X had started work which had not been part of the original application and that further delay had occurred when the officer decided that building work extending into the neighbour’s property required the serving of a Certificate B notice.
  3. I have seen no evidence to support Ms X’s allegations of collusion and an investigation by the Ombudsman is unlikely to find evidence of fault by the Council.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint because there is no evidence to suggest there was fault by the Council.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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