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Norfolk County Council (19 009 749)

Category : Transport and highways > Rights of way

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 30 Oct 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint about the Council’s failure to maintain a public right of way he uses. This is because the right of way has now been cleared and an investigation by the Ombudsman is unlikely to add to that already carried out by the Council or lead to a different outcome.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, who I refer to as Mr B, complains about the Council’s failure to maintain a public right of way which he likes to jog along. Its failure meant he got stung by nettles and had to run on the road which impacted on his knees. He wants the Council to improve the quality and frequency of its maintenance of the right of way.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. 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’. We provide a free service but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe:
  • it is unlikely we would find fault, or
  • the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement, or
  • it is unlikely we could add to any previous investigation by the Council, or
  • it is unlikely further investigation will lead to a different outcome, or
  • we cannot achieve the outcome someone wants. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. In considering the complaint I reviewed the information provided by Mr B and the Council. I gave Mr B the opportunity to comment on my draft decision and considered what he said.

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What I found

  1. In July 2019 Mr B complained to the Council about its lack of maintenance for a public right of way which forms part of his running route. He says the path started to become overgrown in April 2019. The Council told him work to cut back the vegetation on the right of way would be undertaken and this work was completed in September.
  2. In addressing Mr B’s complaint about this matter the Council explained that due to budgeting priorities the right of way receives a single cut a year and that depending on the season’s growth additional cutting might be carried out if funding allows for it.

Assessment

  1. While I understand the Council’s delay in cutting back the vegetation was frustrating for Mr B, this work has now been completed. As this is the case, there are insufficient grounds to warrant an investigation by the Ombudsman.
  2. Mr B says he is extremely distressed and disgusted at the way the Council behaved during this process and that officers gave him incorrect information about when the work would be completed and about the ability of the Countryside Access Officer to walk the route. While his comments are noted, there are insufficient grounds to warrant a formal investigation of this matter by the Ombudsman.

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Final decision

  1. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because the right of way has now been cleared and an investigation by the Ombudsman is unlikely to add to that already carried out by the Council or lead to a different outcome.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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