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Ombudsman pans Plymouth

Published: Thursday, 22nd September 2016

The Local Government Ombudsman reminds Plymouth City Council of its accountability role after the council fails to comply with their recommendations…

Local authorities across England are being reminded that the Local Government Ombudsman has the same powers as the High Court to require evidence, after Plymouth City Council failed to comply with its recommendations.

This move came after the watchdog was called on to investigate complaints from two separate homeowners about a series of errors by city planners when approving a second application on an uncultivated field.

During the planning process, officers failed to publicise the new application properly, failed to ask for a flood risk assessment from the Environment Agency, included the wrong plans in the report to the planning committee, and significantly misrepresented how the new proposals would affect neighbours.

Consequently, one resident said she no longer has any late afternoon sunshine in her kitchen, sitting room and dining room and had a Juliet balcony which overlooked her garden and decking and gave an uninterrupted view into her bedroom.

The other couple felt overlooked and their outlook was dominated by a two-storey house. Both homeowners say their properties now flood because of the inadequate drainage of surface water from the site.

The Ombudsman's report of the case said the council was obstructive and challenged the watchdog’s findings. It had a number of opportunities to acknowledge the errors but had refused to do so or to follow the recommendations made.

Leader of Plymouth City Council, councillor Ian Bowyer, said: “The council takes this matter very seriously and has been working with the Ombudsman over the last three years to address procedural matters that have led to changes in the way the city council considers issues raised in planning applications of this nature. 

"The council has already apologised to the complainants and provided financial compensation where it accepts it is at fault. However, there are still matters that the council does not agree with in the Ombudsman’s report.”

See the Local Government Ombudsman’s decision summary.

Roger Milne