Saturday, 7 February 2009

Council officers fail to enforce landscape planning conditions

Page Contents
  1. What happened
  2. The evidence the Local Government Ombudsman conceal, the council maladministration the Local Government Ombudsman condone, and the council officer's lies the Local Government Ombudsman peddle
  3. Comments and conclusions
  4. Photographs & Plans
What happened

March 2001. Outline planning permission granted to developer, Story Construction Ltd (Story Homes), for residential development for 230 homes subject to a Planning Agreement (section 106 Agreement). The permission was conditional upon the developer submitting a landscaping scheme for each phase of the development prior to commencement of the development, tree planting to be completed within 6 months of the relocation of the cricket pitch (i.e. by October 2004), and all open space areas to be transferred to Carlisle City Council not later than 4 years from the commencement of the development (i.e. by August 2005).

Story Construction Ltd sold part the the development site to McAlpine Homes (Senator Homes). Both developers commenced the development without an approved landscape scheme in breach of planning conditions.

August 2004. Senator Homes completed their development.

November 2004. Resident notifies council of breach of landscaping conditions. On the Senator Homes development there was an approved development plan that showed tree planting, but no landscaping scheme was ever submitted for approval. Much of the tree planting and some grass seeding of landscape areas had not been carried out. On the Story Homes development, there was no landscape scheme for the open space areas around the football pitch, and no tree planting had been undertaken. The Planning Agreement required the tree planting to be completed by October 2004 (6 months after relocation of cricket pitch). Enforcement officer contacts the developers.

Both developers delay in remedying the breach of landscaping conditions. Resident complains to council. Head of Planning Services, Alan Eales, declares an interest in Story Construction Ltd. The Director of Planning Services also had an interest in Story Construction Ltd.

August 2005. Resident makes formal complaint to council. The Development Control Manager, Alan Taylor, investigates the complaint and concludes that the council has acted entirely correctly and that enforcement action is not appropriate.

September 2005. Resident requests referral of the complaint to a Board of Arbitration of local councillors. Council officers ignore the request and disregard the council's complaints procedures. Developers carry out some grass seeding.

December 2005. Resident refers complaint to Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).

March 2006. Story Homes carries out some tree and shrub planting.

August 2006. Local Government Ombudsman Investigator, Richard Corney, concludes there is no useful purpose continuing the investigation and proposes to discontinue the investigation and close the complaint. Resident makes complaint to the Deputy Ombudsman, Neil Hobbs, about Investigator. LGO Investigator had misrepresented the facts, concealed and ignored evidence of maladministration causing injustice, and failed to follow Local Government Ombudsman guidance.

September 2006. Deputy Ombudsman declines to uphold the resident's complaint against Local Government Ombudsman Investigator and finds no fault. But LGO reverses their earlier decision and decides to continue the investigation.

March 2007. Assistant Ombudsman, Chris Cobley, submits a draft report to the resident/complainant and the council for comment. In response, the resident submits detailed evidence to the Assistant Ombudsman of errors, inaccuracies, deliberate misrepresentation of the facts, concealment of evidence of maladministration, and failure to follow Local Government Ombudsman guidance. The Assistant Ombudsman conceals the resident's evidence and fails to disclose it the final report.

May 2007. Local Government Ombudsman report finds maladministration causing injustice in part, but fails to recommend a remedy in accordance with LGO guidance. In respect of the Senator Homes development, the Local Government Ombudsman concludes that the failure of the council to take action when the developer did not submit a landscape scheme was maladministration. But in respect of Story Homes development, the Local Government Ombudsman concludes that there was a landscaping scheme in existence, that is well on its way to full implementation, and there is no reason to criticise the council. The latter is a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts; it highlights how the Local Government Ombudsman conceals evidence to hide the truth, and shows that their decisions are inconsistent, perverse, irrational, and unhinged, and how they wilfully cover up maladministration.

The evidence the Local Government Ombudsman conceal, the council maladministration the Local Government Ombudsman condone ,and the council officer's lies the Local Government Ombudsman peddle

The Local Government Ombudsman fails to acknowledge that the council did not comply with its policy on landscaping new developments. Policy E19 of the Local Plan requires landscaping schemes to include the arrangements and responsibilities for maintenance of them and that development will be monitored to ensure that landscape schemes are implemented. The council failed to comply with these requirements. That was maladministration causing injustice, but the Local Government Ombudsman conceals this fact.

Some of the landscape areas were not included in the Planning Agreement as open space land to be transferred to the council within 4 years of commencement of the development. The planning permissions did not include a condition requiring the developers to maintain the landscape areas. The Local Government Ombudsman has held in other cases that failure to include such a condition is maladministration. But the Local Government Ombudsman conceals this evidence and fails to mention it in the LGO report.

The council failed to monitor the development to ensure that a landscape scheme was implemented. Instead the council allowed both developers to carry out development for more than 3 years before they took any action, and the action they took was ineffective. Story Homes did not undertake the landscape planting until they were told that the Local Government Ombudsman was investigating the matter, and Senator Homes has not undertaken much of the tree planting shown on the approved development plan. Had the resident not notified the council of the breach of landscaping conditions, the landscaping that has been done after the complaint was referred to the Local Government Ombudsman would not have been done. Planning officers had failed to check whether landscape planning conditions were complied with in accordance with Policy E19. That was maladministration causing injustice.

Council officers prevent the resident from putting the complaint before a Board of Arbitration of local councillors, so as to conceal the complaint from councillors and force the resident to refer the complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman, in the knowledge that the Local Government Ombudsman is known to cover up council maladministration.

The Local Government Ombudsman peddle the lies, deceit and propaganda of inept council officers. For instance, the report refers to development as an estate of over 900 homes. That statement is incorrect. The complaint refers to a specific residential development, and the outline planning approval for that development states the overall maximum number of dwellings shall not exceed 230 new build units. The Local Government Ombudsman assumes what council officers tell them is the truth, when it is not. The LGO conceals the truth and misrepresents the facts.

Where the Local Government Ombudsman find maladministration causing injustice their guidance states that we aim to get things put right if we find they have gone wrong, and a remedy should, as far as possible, put the complainant in the position he or she would have been in but for the maladministration. Thus, the Local Government Ombudsman should recommend the council acquire the open space areas, carry out the landscape planting that has not been done, and maintain the open spaces at their expense. But the LGO makes no such recommendation. The Local Government Ombudsman fail to follow their own guidance in favour of the council.

The Local Government Ombudsman recommends the council consider including in its policy a statement that landscaping conditions will normally be enforced. But the LGO fails to disclose that the council already has such a policy, and the council failed to uphold it. The council’s Planning Enforcement Policy states that the Council will uphold planning policies contained within the Local Plan, and that includes Policy E19 - the council failed to to enforce its planning policy to ensure landscape conditions are implemented. That is maladministration causing injustice. The Local Government Ombudsman conceals this evidence.
The Local Government Ombudsman finds no fault of the council in respect of the Story Homes development. The facts show the council were guilty of maladministration causing injustice in respect of both developers, but the Local Government Ombudsman conceals evidence so that it can find the council is not at fault in respect of the Story Homes development. The Head of Planning Services, Alan Eales, declared an interest in Story Construction Ltd (Story Homes). The Director of Planning Services also had an interest in Story Construction Ltd.
Both developers failed to submit a landscape scheme prior to commencement of the development. Both were in breach of planning conditions and the Planning Agreement. Neither developer had submitted a landscape scheme for approval when the resident notified the council more than 3 years after commencement of the development. Nor had either of the developers undertaken tree planting necessary to remedy the breach of conditions prior to the resident referring the complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman. The LGO conceals this evidence.

Comments and conclusions

The Local Government Ombudsman decisions are perverse, inconsistent, unhinged, irrational, and without regard to the public interest. After 8 months of investigation, the LGO Investigator decides there is no useful purpose in continuing the investigation, then reverses that decision. After 17 months of investigation the Local Government Ombudsman finally makes a report maladministration causing injustice, but conceals much of the incriminating evidence of council maladministration.

The Deputy Ombudsman's decision not to uphold the resident's complaint against the Local Government Ombudsman Investigator is perverse and irrational. The Deputy Ombudsman clearly lacks the balls to accept the truth.

Photographs & Plans



The above plan from the Planning Agreement shows the development site. The area shown coloured green is land to be given to the council as public open space, and includes a football pitch. Existing and proposed tree planting are indicated on the plan.



The above plan shows part of the Senator Homes development. Much of the amenity tree screen planting along the site boundaries (top left and right side of plan) has not been carried out. There was no approved landscape scheme for the tree planting shown on the plan. Part of the football pitch is shown (top right).



The above photograph shows part of the landscape area. The Senator Homes development plan shows this as amenity tree planting. No trees planting has been carried out on the area to the right of the cycleway.



The above photograph shows part of the landscape area at site entrance. The development plan shows this area as amenity tree planting. No trees planting has been carried out.



The above photograph shows another view of part of the landscape area at site entrance. The development plan shows this area as amenity tree planting. No trees planting has been carried out. In the background are trees subject to a TPO.