Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council (16 000 004)

Category : Transport and highways > Highway adoption

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 30 Jan 2017

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr Y complains the Council has included development sites in its local plan which may allow development on a village green and may not act properly in the future when considering planning applications. The Ombudsman will not investigate as there is no indication that Mr Y is caused a significant personal injustice or that this is a significant public interest matter.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I shall refer to as Mr Y, complains the Council has included development sites in its local plan which would allow development on the village green.
  2. Mr Y complains there was previous development on the green when an access road was formed without an application to deregister the area of village green affected. Mr Y wants to prevent widening of tarmac access roads in the future. The development does not affect Mr Y’s home as he lives 800 metres away. He considers the matter is a matter of significant public interest that should be investigated.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word fault to refer to these. She must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. She provides a free service, but must use public money carefully. She may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if she believes the injustice is not significant enough to justify her involvement (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6))

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I have considered what Mr Y said in his complaint.
  2. I have considered the information on the local plan available on the Council’s website.
  3. I gave the Council and Mr Y the opportunity to comment on my draft decision.
  4.  

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What I found

  1. Mr Y lives some streets away from a village green. He not affected by traffic from it. So, my view is that he does not have a significant personal injustice from the matters he complains about.
  2. My Y asks that we investigate persistent breaches of the law affecting village greens by the Council as a public interest matter.
  3. Mr Y says the last time there was development on the village green was in 2005, with widening of a pedestrian access. Mr Y says that if I compare the village green map to the adopted highway register this will show the Council was wrong. Mr Y says that in 2012 the Council approved a planning application which would have resulted in widening of an access road without an application to deregister the area of village green affected. This planning application has now expired.
  4. We cannot provide a total review of everything that has happened regarding the village green. The last physical changes to the green occurred over 15 years ago. The recent planning application has expired and so I do not propose to investigate this as the changes Mr Y is concerned about will not happen now.
  5. Mr Y says that we should investigate the complaint about the possible inclusion of the site in the local plan. He considers that inclusion of the site in the local plan may lead to planning applications that might widen the tarmac access on the village green.
  6. I have looked at the local plan on the Councils website. The current plan covers up to 2006. There is currently a consultation on the new local plan on the website which closes on 21 January 2017. This is the first stage of a formal consultation, a draft plan will be submitted in Summer 2017 for further comments. Mr Y and other members of the public have the chance to put their comments to the Council before any decision is made. Mr Y explained that he thinks the Council will ignore any comments, but this is not a reason for us to investigate while the local plan is still in the consultation process.
  7. Anyway, I have looked at the draft local plan on the website. I cannot see any indication of development around the village green, all that is marked in the area is a conservation area and playing fields. Mr Y says he thinks the Council allocated the site near the village green for housing in 2010. Whatever was planned previously, the current draft local plan shows no planned development for the site.
  8. My view is this is not a significant public interest matter and that we should not investigate. I appreciate that local residents worry about what may happen in the future. But, it is not certain whether any development will happen. I cannot see any planned development on the local plan and there is no current planning application affecting the village green site.

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Final decision

  1. I have discontinued my investigation as Mr Y has not provided evidence of a significant injustice to him or that the matters complained about are of significant public interest.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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