Gloucester business owners’ headache following council lack of action

A Gloucester couple say they have lost business because the city council has not properly investigated their reports of a neighbour’s noise nuisance.

The duo complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman after they were not satisfied with the way Gloucester City Council investigated their complaints about noise being made by a business upstairs.

They reported banging loud enough to shake the walls and light fittings and on several occasions this had driven customers away.

Despite this the council wrongly told them it could only investigate noise affecting people in their place of residence – not businesses. Officers visited the above business premises and spoke with the owner informally about noise insulation, but the owner said he could not afford this.

The council encouraged the couple to engage in mediation with their neighbour and to take private action if this did not improve matters.

The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council should have carried out a proper investigation of the couple’s reports before deciding whether a statutory nuisance had taken place. Instead, it decided to take informal action without an investigation.

Paul Najsarek, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said:

“I am concerned the council had already decided no statutory nuisance had taken place before setting foot in the property, and has since tried to retrospectively justify this decision rather than making an open-minded, balanced enquiry into the case.

“While I cannot say the council would have come to a different conclusion had it taken the proper route, its inaction has left the couple frustrated and not feeling properly heard.

“I am pleased the council has agreed to my recommendations to apologise to the couple, and to improve its policies and practices going forward.”

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman remedies injustice and shares learning from investigations to help improve public, and adult social care, services. In this case the council has agreed to apologise and pay the couple £250 each for the frustration they have suffered.

The Ombudsman has the power to make recommendations to improve processes for the wider public. In this case the council has agreed to start a fresh investigation if it receives further reports of noise nuisance about the business.

It will also circulate guidance to staff highlighting the errors the Ombudsman has found in its practice.

Article date: 09 August 2023

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