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LOCAL GOVERNMENT OMBUDSMEN INVESTIGATION REPORTS ISSUED SINCE 27 MAY

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Findings of maladministration and injustice ...
Findings of maladministration and injustice

Basildon DC (98/B/0054)

Planning enforcement

'Mr and Mrs Smith' (not their real names) live next to a former poultry farm and access to the site runs close to their home. The council delayed in taking enforcement action against their neighbour for operating a fish farm without planning permission. As a result the complainants suffered considerable noise and traffic from visitors to the farm. The ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice, and recommended that the council should: pay the complainants£500 for their uncertainty deriving from the delay in having the planning position clarified and the time and trouble in pursuing their complaint; and pay a further sum to be agreed with the ombudsman in respect of any injustice which might derive from the effects of a decision to be reached regarding the site by a planning inspector.

East Staffordshire DC (98/B/0225)

Planning: listed buildings & consideration/neighbour amenity

The complainants, 'Mr and Mrs Sage' (not their real names), live in a Grade II listed building. The council received an application for the erection of a stable block near to theirs and to another listed building on the same site. After negotiation, the council suggested a re-siting of the block to a position within 20 to 30 metres of the listed buildings. The report to elected members of the council did not include any assessment of the likely impact or otherwise of the stable block on the listed buildings. Members approved the application without an evaluation of relevant material facts. The case officer who processed the application is a director an a landfill site at an adjacent site. The ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice to the complainants, and recommended that the council should pay them£500 compensation.

Newcastle-under-Lyme BC (98/B/0273)

Death

As part of an ongoing programme of health and safety surveys the council laid flat 426 memorial stones in a cemetery because they were deemed to have failed the test used by the council and were therefore unsafe. The complainant represents an action group formed in response to the council's action. He complains on behalf of the action group that the council failed to give any advance publicity about the survey to grave owners and/or those responsible for the maintenance of the memorials. He says that the memorials which were not unsafe were laid flat unnecessarily and that excessive force was used in the process. This inevitably caused considerable distress and anxiety, as well as cost to those individuals who were left to arrange for the memorials to be re-erected. The ombudsman found maladministration causing injustice, and recommended that the council should offer to make ex gratia payments of£70 (being 50% of an average cost of£140) towards the reinstatement of each of the memorials in respect of the 77 graves represented by members of the action group, and also pay£250 to the action group towards the cost of pursuing the complaint with the Ombudsman.

Maldon DC (98/B/0294)

Planning: consideration/neighbour amenity

'Mr Scott' (not his real name) complained about the grant of planning permission for a new house on a vacant plot next to his home. He was not notified of the application, but this was not maladministration. The council failed to notice discrepancies in the submitted plans, but this did not affect the decision on the application. Inadequacies in the recording of the case officer's assessment of the application and in the report to the area planning sub-committee amounted to maladministration and caused injustice to the complainant. Although the ombudsman could not conclude that the decision on the application would have been different in there had been no maladministration, Mr Scott suffered avoidable frustration and worry because of the failures identified. The ombudsman recommended that the council should pay£250 compensation plus£250 for Mr Scott's time and trouble in pursuing the complaint.

Findings of no maladministration

West Lindsey DC (97/C/3555)

Building control

'Mr Beresford' (not his real name) alleges that the council failed to process an application for approval under building regulations properly and failed to inspect the completed property.

The ombudsman finds that the council's inspection of the property was not so unreasonable as to constitute maladministration, nor is there any evidence to suggest that the house either suffers or will suffer from the condensation feared by the complainant. There is therefore no injustice to him from any maladministration

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