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Suffolk County Council (21 000 989)

Category : Transport and highways > Traffic management

Decision : Not upheld

Decision date : 05 Oct 2021

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: Ms B complained about how the Council responded to her concerns about heavy goods vehicles using the road near her home. She says the number of HGV’s using the road has increased significantly because of the development of a local business park causing a significant amount of noise and pollution. The Ombudsman found no fault on the Council’s part.

The complaint

  1. Ms B complains about how the Council responded to her concerns about heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) using the road near her home. She says the number of HGVs using the road has increased significantly due to the development of a local business park causing a significant amount of noise and pollution. As a result, she and her family are unable to sleep or enjoy their home and garden.

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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’. If there has been fault which has caused an injustice, we may suggest a remedy. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 26(1) and 26A(1), 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 have considered all the information provided by Ms B, made enquiries of the Council and considered its comments and the documents it provided.
  2. Ms B 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

Key facts

  1. Ms B lives near to a busy road. She says the number of HGVs using the road has increased significantly over recent years, particularly since the expansion of a nearby business park. She complained to the Council that the noise and pollution caused by the HGVs was having a serious effect on the health and happiness of her family. She says they are often unable to sleep or are woken in the early hours of the morning. She is having to replace her windows to try to reduce the noise inside her home. She wants the Council to impose a restriction on the road to prevent large lorries using it.
  2. Similar concerns were raised by Ms B’s local district councillor in September 2020. The Council advised him that a county wide HGV review was due to be completed which would look at strategic issues as well as local issues that could have a wider impact. It confirmed his concerns would be considered in the review. The Council explained that, as a short-term solution, a traffic regulation order (TRO) or experimental TRO, which lasts for up to 18 months, could be introduced. However, it raised concerns about the unintended consequences of displacing HGVs onto other routes. The costs of a TRO would have to be met through the District Council’s highways budget, but this was already committed so this option was not pursued.

Analysis

  1. The Council has explained that it receives many complaints about HGV issues due to the significant number of HGV movements to and from Felixstowe Port and numerous HGV movements to support the area’s agricultural economy. In addition, several new business parks and large distribution warehouses are being constructed adding to the HGV demands on the county’s road network.
  2. As a result of the situation, the Council is commissioning an HGV review that will involve consultation with all councils across the county and with many stakeholders. The review is due to take place later this year and will allow the Council to assess areas where mitigation measures may be appropriate. The Council says that, once the review has been completed, it will update the recommended lorry routes map to take account of changes to the highway network and ensure it directs drivers to use the most appropriate routes.
  3. The Council has explained that it is holding back on any local HGV interventions whilst awaiting the outcome of the review as this will consider strategic and local HGV issues holistically to ensure there are new HGV plans and policies in place for the future.
  4. I appreciate the situation is very frustrating for Ms B, but I am satisfied the Council is taking appropriate action. As the highway authority, it is for the Council to decide what traffic management measures to take. It is entitled to decide to put any local HGV interventions on hold pending the outcome of the county wide review which will enable it to decide on any appropriate action.

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Final decision

  1. I do not uphold Ms B’s complaint.
  2. I have completed my investigation on the basis that I am satisfied with the Council’s actions.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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