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Norfolk County Council (20 000 671)

Category : Transport and highways > Street furniture and lighting

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 09 Oct 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr C says the Council misled him about the location of a bus stop when it published a traffic regulation order and did not consult him directly. There is no fault in how the Council handled the traffic regulation order process.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I shall refer to as Mr C, complained the Council:
    • misled him about the location of a bus stop when it published a traffic regulation order; and
    • failed to consult him directly about the position of the bus stop.
  2. Mr C says fault by the Council means he did not have an opportunity to object to the positioning of the bus stop which is now outside his property whereas previously it was further up the road.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. The Ombudsman investigates complaints of injustice caused by maladministration and service failure. I have used the word fault to refer to these. The Ombudsman cannot question whether a Council’s decision is right or wrong simply because Mr C disagrees with it. He must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3))
  2. 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. As part of the investigation, I have:
    • considered the complaint and Mr C's comments;
    • considered the information published as part of the traffic regulation order.
  2. Mr C and the Council had an opportunity to comment on my draft decision. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

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What I found

Background

  1. Mr C lives on a bus route. When the Council first proposed improvements to the traffic flow on Mr C’s road it intended for the bus stop to remain in its previous position. However, during the consultation process the bus company raised concerns about the safety of the existing position given the proposal was to create parking spaces next to it. The Council therefore issued a new traffic regulation order. Under the new proposal the bus stop is outside Mr C’s property. The Council advertised the new proposal online, by placing notices on the street and in the local press. Mr C accessed the Council’s online information which included a map. Mr C says the map is misleading because it says existing bus stop to remain. He therefore did not make any comment on the application. He is concerned nobody consulted him directly about the application given he is particularly affected.

The Local Authorities' Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996

  1. Section 7 of the regulations covers publication of proposals. This says:
    • (1) An order making authority shall, before making an order:
    • (a)publish at least once a notice (in these Regulations called a “notice of proposals”) containing the particulars specified in Parts I and II of Schedule 1 in a newspaper circulating in the area in which any road or other place to which the order relates is situated;
    • (b)in the case of an order under section 6 of the 1984 Act, publish a similar notice in the London Gazette;
    • (c)take such other steps as it may consider appropriate for ensuring that adequate publicity about the order is given to persons likely to be affected by its provisions and, without prejudice to the generality of this sub-paragraph, such other steps may include:
    • (i)in the case of an order to which sub-paragraph (b) does not apply, publication of a notice in the London Gazette;
    • (ii)the display of notices in roads or other places affected by the order; or
    • (iii)the delivery of notices or letters to premises, or premises occupied by persons, appearing to the authority to be likely to be affected by any provision in the order.

Analysis

  1. The consultation requirements for a traffic regulation order are set out in paragraph 8. As is clear from that, the Council does not have to directly consult or tell those who are affected by the order. Instead, the Council has to publish a notice in a local newspaper. If the Council considers other steps necessary the regulations list the possibility of displaying notices in roads or delivery of notices to those affected by the order. In this case the Council published the notice in a local newspaper and displayed a notice on Mr C’s road. I am therefore satisfied the Council complied with the legal requirements when publishing the traffic regulation order.
  2. I am aware though that in correspondence with Mr C the Council has said it would normally expect a person affected by a proposal to be consulted directly. The Council says though this would have been the responsibility of the City Council and it cannot confirm whether the City Council carried out such consultation. I do not consider it necessary to pursue that point further. That is because I am satisfied Mr C knew about the proposed traffic regulation order and had an opportunity to comment on it. The issue is whether the information the Council published about the new traffic regulation order was so misleading Mr C did not have a proper opportunity to comment. I have therefore carefully considered the information available to Mr C at the point at which the Council consulted on the second traffic regulation order.
  3. Mr C confirms he checked the online plan available on the Council’s website for the proposed traffic regulation order. Having considered that plan I note it says ‘existing bus stop to remain’ in the section outlining what the numbered points on the map above refer to. However, the document also includes a map of the road which shows Mr C’s property. I am satisfied the changed location of the bus stop as outside Mr C’s property is clearly marked on that map and is numbered in accordance with the key below. I therefore do not consider the Council issued misleading information. Clearly Mr C has relied on the text written on the map rather than looking at the position of the bus stop on the map itself. However, as the Council properly made the information available to Mr C I could not say fault by the Council led to Mr C not having an opportunity to submit his comments on the revised location of the bus stop. I therefore do not consider the Council at fault and see no reason to pursue the complaint further.

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Final decision

  1. I have discontinued my investigation and do not uphold the complaint.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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