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Ombudsman report shares lessons from planning complaints

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has published a special report that shares the lessons learned from the complaints it receives about planning and development.

The report highlights stories from some of the LGO’s cases, which illustrate some of the common areas where the LGO finds fault. These include:

  • checking the validity of applications
  • advertising applications
  • considering objections
  • explaining reasons for decisions
  • planning enforcement

The report has been published to help people understand more about the LGO’s role in subjecting planning decisions to independent scrutiny, and putting things right where there has been a fault.

By proposing some areas of good practice, the report offers ways that councils can increase transparency in the way they reach decisions. It also includes information that will help local councillors support people in their ward to bring a complaint to the LGO, as well as assist in their role of scrutinising council practice.

Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said:

“Planning is an important local issue and the LGO is the only independent route of redress for people who have been adversely affected by a local decision. This report will help people to understand more about our role in providing a remedy when things have gone wrong.

“We investigate whether the council has followed the proper procedures in approving planning decisions and in enforcing planning conditions.

“Councillors will want to ensure their local planning services are as effective and transparent as they can be, and our report suggests best practice and poses a number of questions they might want to ask.”

The case studies in the report include an officer’s report to the planning committee that failed to mention the impact on nearby residents of the development or the years of complaints about the site, and another in which a council carried out work without applying for planning.

The majority of the complaints LGO receives about planning are from people who object to a council’s decision to grant planning permission.

Last year (2013/14) the LGO investigated 1,631 complaints about planning. It also saw a 14% increase in complaints about enforcement action over the same period, although this still remained a relatively small area of all planning complaints investigated.

Article date: 11 December 2014