South Hams District Council (18 011 018)

Category : Transport and highways > Traffic management

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 22 Mar 2019

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mr Y complains about the loss of parking provision in an area he sometimes visits with his disabled son, Mr X. The Ombudsman has discontinued the investigation into Mr Y’s complaint because there is a lack of significant injustice arising from the fault he claims.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I will call Mr Y, complains about the Council’s consultation to impose parking restrictions on a road where he would sometimes park with his disabled son. Specifically, he says the consultation process was unfair and pre-determined, and as a result the Council imposed parking restrictions, thus removing parking facilities, previously available to a disabled person.
  2. Mr Y says this has caused injustice to himself and Mr X because he enjoys visiting the area in question, but it is now difficult to do so because there is no other suitable parking provision

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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 the fault has not caused injustice to the person who complained, or the injustice is not significant enough to justify our involvement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)

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How I considered this complaint

  1. When considering this complaint, I took the following actions:
    • contacted Mr Y to confirm my understanding of his complaint and his claimed injustice. I also used online mapping to view the area in question;
    • considered information provided by the Council, including its responses to Mr Y’s complaints;
    • consulted the Ombudsman’s ‘Guidance on Jurisdiction’; and
    • issued a draft decision and invited comments from Mr Y and the Council. I considered any comments received before making a final decision.

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What I found

  1. Mr Y has an adult son, whom I will call Mr X. Mr X is disabled and has limited mobility. Mr Y lives around six miles from an Area of Natural Beauty (AONB). He says that he and his wife take Mr X to the area to exercise once a week.
  2. Until recently, Mr Y had benefited from on-street parking in a convenient and accessible location. He said the area where he parked was on level ground, and ideal for assisting Mr X safely into and out of their car. The area was also convenient because it is close to the path which Mr Y and his family regularly walk along.
  3. In June 2018, the Council consulted residents about its proposal to enforce the terms of resident only parking bays, which it had introduced in April 2018, at the spot where Mr Y has always parked. Mr Y responded to the consultation to raise his objections before the advertised deadline.
  4. Mr Y complains about the consultation process. He says the Council had pre-determined its decision because it painted lines on the road to designate the resident-only bays before starting its consultation. The result being that the area appeared to be for permit-holders only from April, even though restrictions were not enforceable at that point. The Council stands by the process followed, saying the consultation was for the traffic order allowing it to enforce against non-permit holders, not for the painting of the lines.
  5. Mr Y complained to the Council about the appearance of pre-determination. The Council did not uphold the complaint, and pointed Mr Y to other nearby areas where he could park. Mr Y says the other parking areas are not suitable because they are not accessible for Mr X. He has provided photographs to the Ombudsman of the nearby pay and display car park. The Council accepts that work needs to be done to improve the accessibility of the car park in question.
  6. The Council also pointed out that Mr Y benefits from the use of a disabled blue-badge when travelling with Mr X. This means he can park on single and double-yellow lines, if it is safe to do so and does not cause a highway obstruction. Online maps of the area show a road with double-yellow lines very close to the area where Mr Y had parked previously. Whilst the road is narrow, it does widen at one point. Mr Y has confirmed that he has parked here on occasion, but states that it is not ideal because it can be difficult to help Mr X into and out of the car. He says the Council suggested this as a short-term measure only.
  7. Mr Y has not alleged that fault affected the outcome of the consultation, although it is clear he disagrees with it. Instead he says the Council’s actions are unfair and give the impression of pre-determination. I understand most of the respondents to the consultation favoured the Council’s proposal.
  8. Even if the Ombudsman investigated this point, and made a finding of fault, I consider the injustice arising from the fault would not be significant enough to warrant the remedy Mr Y seeks. The impact from painting the lines too early meant that there was a period of some weeks during which Mr Y, and potentially other drivers, were wrongly prevented from parking at the location. However the traffic order was eventually made and the Council was entitled from that point to enforce against those parking without a valid permit. Taking these points into account, I consider the injustice Mr Y claims is not significant enough to warrant our further involvement..

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Final decision

  1. I have discontinued my investigation for the reasons explained in this statement.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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