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Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council (18 006 637)

Category : Transport and highways > Rights of way

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 31 Oct 2018

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Miss X’s complaint that the Council wrongly installed bollards on a section of un-adopted road. The complaint is late and it is unlikely we could achieve anything for Miss X. If she wishes to assert a private right of access over the road she would need to go to court.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Miss X, complains the Council installed bollards which block her right of access onto the public highway. She is concerned this will devalue her property.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
  2. We cannot investigate late complaints unless we decide there are good reasons. Late complaints are when someone takes more than 12 months to complain to us about something a council has done. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26B and 34D, as amended)
  3. The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I reviewed Miss X’s complaint, made enquiries of the Council and considered its response. I shared my draft decision with Miss X and discussed it with her.

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What I found

  1. Miss X owns a private property on Road A. She says the deeds to her property provide a right of access onto Road B but the Council has installed bollards preventing her from accessing it.
  2. The Council says there is no public highway connecting Road A and Road B. It does not have records to show when or why the bollards were installed as the issue dates back more than 20 years. It has suggested Miss X contact the landowner about removing the bollards as any dispute over Miss X’s right of access is a private civil matter.
  3. The Ombudsman will not investigate the complaint. The Council installed the bollards more than 12 months ago and any complaint about their installation is therefore late. Although we have discretion to investigate late complaints the lack of records available means it is unlikely we could get to the bottom of this issue now. Ultimately, the land is not part of the public highway and the courts are better placed to determine whether any party (including the Council) has wrongly prevented Miss X from exercising a right of access over it.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the complaint is late, it is unlikely we could achieve any worthwhile outcome and the courts are better placed to decide the issue.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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