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LOCAL GOVERNMENT OMBUDSMEN INVESTIGATION REPORTS ISSUED SINCE 6 JULY 2000

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

East Hertfordshire District Council (97/B/5301, 98/B/3237 & 4481) and

Hertfordshire County Council (98/B/1430 & 4482)

Planning consideration/neighbour amenity

The district council had granted planning permission for outdoor sports facilities on green belt land on the edge of an urban area. The original proposals were for the playing surfaces to be achieved through re-contouring of material already on site.

The landowner later asserted that the approved levels could not be achieved and that the material on site was not suitable for playing pitches. It was proposed that a large amount of material including sand and gravel was to be removed and a greater amount of inert fill was to be imported.

At a meeting with the developer, it was agreed that a planning application seeking to vary the terms of the original permission would be submitted for determination by the district council. This meeting was not minuted.

The county council made detailed comments when consulted on the new application. Some local residents protested that the large scale movement of material was unnecessary.

Planning permission for mineral extraction and deposit of waste over part of the site had long before been refused and the subsequent appeal dismissed.

The information presented to the district council's planning committee did not include some relevant matters of importance. The committee approved the new application and subsequently approved a series of applications to extend the time for the development to be undertaken.

The district council took planning enforcement action during the operations and prevented further importation or exportation once the approved volumes had been moved, as planned, by lorry past the home of one complainant (and close to the homes of the others).

No playing surfaces or other sports facilities have been created.

The ombudsman finds maladministration causing no injustice on the part of the district council and the county council (in respect of the failure to minute the meeting with the developer).

The ombudsman finds maladministration causing injustice on the part of the district council (in respect of the inadequate information given to the planning committee), and recommends that it should:

- compensate one complainant£1,500 for his loss of amenity; and

- pay each of the complainants£250 for worry and time and trouble in pursuing the matter.

Local settlement reports

Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council (99/C/2121)

Homelessness

'Mr Heron' (not his real name for legal reasons) was concerned about delay and a lack of liaison between departments of the council and a welfare rights service in response to what he saw as threatened homelessness from the house that he owned.

The council failed to make it clear as to when it would consider a person to be threatened with homelessness in situations like Mr Heron's. The ombudsman sees that as maladministration, although she seesthe injustice to Mr Heron as somewhat problematic and also limited by his own lack of action.

The council has accepted the ombudsman's criticism and produced clear advice for those involved. It has agreed to pay£250 to Mr Heron, and the ombudsman sees that as resolving the issue. No further action is called for from the council.

Sheffield City Council (99/C/1823)

Special educational needs & education exclusions

Mr and Mrs Hill (not their real names for legal reasons) complained that the council failed to make provision for their son's education after he was excluded from a school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The ombudsman finds that the council had failed to ensure that the child's statement of special educational needs was reviewed annually and had failed to make provision for his education for a year.

The ombudsman accepts that there were problems in assessing and meeting the child's needs, particularly during the months of waiting for a medical diagnosis and establishing whether medication would be effective.

The council has reviewed staffing levels in the special educational needs section and has changed its systems for monitoring and following up schools to ensure that annual reviews of statements are carried out at the correct time.

The council is reviewing its provision for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties and for children who are not attending school. The council has agreed to pay Mr and Mrs Hill£750 for their son's lost education and their stress, time and trouble. The ombudsman considers these actions constitute a satisfactory settlement of the complaint.

Sheffield City Council (99/C/1823)

Special educational needs & education exclusions

Mrs Clayton (not her real name for legal reasons) complained that the council failed to arrange the assessment and issuing of a statement of special educational needs for her son at the appropriate times and failed to make adequate educational provision for him while he was excluded from school.

The ombudsman finds that there was confusion over who had the responsibility for carrying out the assessment and issuing of a statement, causing delay, and that the child did not receive the education and support he needed while waiting for a placement at a suitable school. The ombudsman accepts that the child was admitted to a special school at least as quickly as he would have been if the process of issuing a statement had been carried out correctly.

The council has now addressed the issue of liaison and responsibility and is addressing the issue of provision for pupils who have been excluded from school. The Council has agreed to pay Mrs Clayton a total of£600 to help her son's education and to compensate her for her stress, time and trouble. The ombudsman is satisfied that these actions constitute a satisfactory settlement of the complaint.

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