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Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (20 005 891)

Category : Transport and highways > Rights of way

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 09 Mar 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complains the Council closed a right of way without following proper procedures and with no good reason. The Ombudsman decided not to investigate the complaint as the injustice caused to Mrs X is not so great that the Ombudsman would be likely to recommend a remedy.

The complaint

Mrs X complains the Council closed a right of way without following proper procedures and with no good reason.

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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 fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, 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, or
  • there is another body better placed to consider this complaint, or
  • it would be reasonable for the person to ask for a council review or appeal.

(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

  1. 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)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I examined the complaint and background information provided by Mrs X and the Council. I discussed matters with Mrs X by telephone. I sent a draft decision statement to Mrs X and the Council and invited the comments of both parties on it.

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What I found

  1. Mrs X’s husband uses a mobility scooter. He usually goes through a nearby park on his way to the doctor and the chemist rather than use a main road which is more dangerous.
  2. The Council temporarily closed a footpath leading to the park in August 2020.It cited concerns about antisocial behaviour raised by local residents. Mrs X says the reason is unjustified because there had only been seven incidents of antisocial behaviour reported to the Police since 2016. Mrs X says other paths to the park were unsuitable for her husband for a number of reasons. One, for instance, has a lot of glass on the ground that could puncture tyres, another has a barrier and others get muddy and so are unsuitable for mobility scooters.
  3. Mrs X says the decision to close the path was made solely by the Leader of the Council without following proper procedures.
  4. The Council said the closure was temporary while it reviewed the concerns about antisocial behaviour in the vicinity. The footpath was reopened in the winter of 2020/21.
  5. Given the footpath has reopened, I do not consider further pursuit of this complaint is warranted. I note Mrs X’s concerns about the Council not following proper procedure and have considered whether an enquiry into the way in which the decision to close the footpath was made would at least serve to reassure her.
  6. I should emphasis the Ombudsman expects local authorities to follow the correct procedures when considering closures of public footpaths. Should Mrs X complain in future about closure of the same footpath then we will consider the procedural complaint carefully. However, the Council stressed the closure was temporary and it turned out to be so. I do not therefore find Mrs X suffered a degree of injustice that warrants further pursuit of the matter by, or a remedy from, the Ombudsman.

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Final decision

  1. I closed this complaint because Mrs X did not suffer a degree of injustice that warrants investigation by the Ombudsman.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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