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Staffordshire County Council (20 008 762)

Category : Transport and highways > Rights of way

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 13 Jan 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: We will not investigate Ms X’s complaint about the Council’s failure to protect her property from theft and damage by users of a public right of way. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault by the Council.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, Ms X, complains the Council has failed to take action to protect her property from damage by users of a right of way which runs alongside her home. She says she has suffered stress and financial loss.

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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.

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

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I reviewed Ms X’s complaint and the Council’s response. I shared my draft decision with Ms X and considered her comments.

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What I found

  1. Ms X lives next to a public right of way. She says users of the right of way have damaged and stolen her property and she believes the Council failed in its duty to protect her home.
  2. The Council has explained to Ms X that matters of theft and damage are more appropriate for the police but Ms X wants the Council to erect a metal security fence to keep her, her family and her property safe. She also wants the Council to compensate her for her losses and the impact the issue has had on her health.
  3. The Council, as the local highway authority, has certain duties to protect the public’s right to use of the right of way but it has no formal duty to protect Ms X’s personal property from its users. If Ms X believes additional measures are required it is for her to look into this, not the Council. The police are better placed to investigate issues of theft or damage to Ms X’s property and Ms X may have a remedy in court against those responsible, if they are found.
  4. More generally, the County Council has explained Ms X may approach the District Council to raise concerns about antisocial behaviour. Under Section 59 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 the District Council has powers to make Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) which may restrict access to public rights of ways at certain times to reduce antisocial behaviour.

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Final decision

  1. We will not investigate this complaint. This is because the Council is not responsible for the damage to, or theft of, Ms X’s property. It also has no formal duty to protect Ms X’s property as she suggests; this is a matter for Ms X as a private landowner.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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