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Cheshire West & Chester Council (21 000 893)

Category : Transport and highways > Traffic management

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 17 Oct 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Mrs X complained about the Council’s decision not to install a traffic mirror on the highway opposite her house. We find the Council was not at fault.

The complaint

  1. Mrs X complained about the Council’s decision not to install a traffic mirror on the highway opposite her house. She said because of a bridge and a bend in the road it is difficult to see what traffic was coming which makes driving out of her house dangerous. She wanted the Council to install a mirror to make this safer.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints of injustice caused by ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We cannot question whether a council’s decision is right or wrong simply because the complainant disagrees with it. We must consider whether there was fault in the way the decision was reached. (Local Government Act 1974, section 34(3), as amended)
  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. I considered Mrs X’s complaint to the Council and its response.
  2. I referred to guidance from the Department for Transport (DfT) about traffic mirrors and the relevant legislation.
  3. Mrs X 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. Historically, the local highway authority needed permission from the DfT before installing traffic mirrors on the public highway. The DfT provided internal guidance about when traffic mirrors might be appropriate. This stated the use of traffic mirrors should be restricted to sites such as T junctions, where vehicles were travelling at speed and where vehicles emerging had virtually nil visibility.
  2. The introduction of new legislation in 2016 meant the responsibility for deciding whether to install traffic mirrors passed to the relevant local highway authority. These could either develop their own criteria for the installation of traffic mirrors or continue to use the DfT guidance.
  3. In this complaint, the highway authority is the Council. The Council continues to use the DfT guidance on traffic mirrors.

What happened

  1. Mrs X’s MP contacted the Council in April 2021 asking whether it would install a traffic mirror outside her property. The Council completed a site visit. It assessed the road visibility on exiting Mrs X’s property as satisfactory in both directions. It also noted there had been no reports of personal injury collisions and that the speed limit in the area was 20 miles per hour. It said that installation of a traffic mirror could distort the view of approaching traffic.
  2. The Council wrote to Mrs X and said the DfT does not approve the use of mirrors on the highway. It said she could install a mirror if it was on private property. It also wrote to her MP. In that letter it said the speed limit where Mrs X was 20 miles per hour which should help towards improving road safety.
  3. Mrs X remained unhappy with the Council’s response and complained to the Ombudsman.

My findings

  1. We cannot question the merits of the Council’s decision where it is made without fault. The Council completed a site visit to Mrs X’s property. It decided not to install a traffic mirror because:
    • there was no record of personal injury collisions at the location;
    • the road visibility was satisfactory; and
    • there were existing speed restrictions on the road.
  2. The Council made its decision in accordance with the DfT guidance. The Council was not at fault.

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Final decision

  1. We find the Council was not at fault in how it made its decision not to install traffic mirrors outside Mrs X’s property. Therefore, I have completed my investigation.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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