Saturday, 7 February 2009

Planning officers fail to uphold Planning Agreement and landscape conditions - unauthorised concrete block wall

Page Contents
  1. What happened
  2. The evidence the Local Government Ombudsman conceal and the council maladministration the Local Government Ombudsman condone
  3. Comments and conclusions
  4. Photographs & Plan
What happened

2004. Developer, Senator Homes, builds a concrete block retaining wall with wood fence above (without planning permission) on the edge of a cycleway/footpath adjacent new residential development. The wall is over 2 metres high. It is situated on land shown as amenity tree screen planting on the approved residential development plan and Planning Agreement (section 106 Agreement). The wall had been built to retain an embankment. Behind the fence above the wall is a refuse bin storage compound that was also built without planning approval.

November 2004. Resident notifies council of the unauthorised wall, breach of landscape planning conditions and Planning Agreement. Enforcement officer inspects.

February 2005. Resident requests council enforce the Planning Agreement and landscape planning conditions.

March 2005. Enforcement officer confirms discussions with developer about landscaping and 'softening up' the wall with planting.

August 2005. Resident makes formal complaint to council.

September 2005. Resident requests referral to Board of Arbitration of local councillors. Council officers ignore the request and disregard the council's complaints procedures.

December 2005. Resident refers complaint to Local Government Ombudsman. Local Government Ombudsman declines to investigate despite evidence of maladministration causing injustice.

2007. Developer attaches a wood fence to the concrete block wall to screen it, and plants some shrubs.

The evidence the Local Government Ombudsman conceal and the council maladministration the Local Government Ombudsman condone

This case highlights how the Local Government Ombudsman and the council do not act in the public interest, but instead cover up maladministration. A developer builds a wall without planning permission. This creates an eyesore that causes problems to local residents, and prevents amenity tree planting to be carried out as shown in the approved residential development plan and the Planning Agreement. The council do not take enforcement action to require the developer to reinstate the land and carry out the landscaping in accordance with the planning permission and Planning Agreement. Instead the council allow the developer to retain the wall.

The council do not act in the public interest, they act to mitigate the financial cost to the subcontractor, Story Construction Ltd, who built the wall. The Head of Planning Services declared an interest in Story Construction Ltd. The Director of Planning Services also had an interest in Story Construction Ltd.

The Council’s Planning Enforcement Policy states that the Council will endeavour to provide a fair and consistent enforcement service to protect the environment of the District and the amenity of its citizens; will take action against significant breaches of planning permissions and development which has not been given approval; and will uphold planning policies contained within the Local Plan, that includes Policy E19 - the requirement to monitor developments to ensure that landscape schemes are implemented.

The planning officers failed to abide by the council's Planning Enforcement Policy and Local Plan Policy E19. They failed to take action to ensure compliance with the approved planning permission and landscaping conditions. That was a clear case of maladministration causing injustice to the local residents.

Other residents had complained about the retaining wall, and had notified a local councillor. In July 2006, a local councillor wrote this unusual and unattractive construction bordering the cycleway is filled with loose stone and is creating a problem for residents in this area. It is also being vandalised. We have had a site visit with the developer and the maintenance company, and I expect these concerns to be addressed.

DOE Planning Policy Guidance: Enforcing Planning Control (PPG 18) advises councils that the Local Government Ombudsman has held, in a number of investigated cases, that there is "maladministration" if the authority fail to take effective enforcement action which was plainly necessary and has occasionally recommended a compensatory payment to the complainant for the consequent injustice. It is clear that the residents suffered an injustice by a loss of amenity caused by the block wall eyesore, and enforcement action was plainly necessary to remedy that injustice. But the Local Government Ombudsman declines to investigate and does not make consistent decisions.

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 may not investigte the complaint or may cover up the maladministration .

Comments and conclusions

The decision of the Local Government Ombudsman not to investigate shows that the LGO does not act in the public interest, conceal evidence of maladministration, condone council malpractice, and are not impartial.
The Local Government Ombudsman state they aim to get things put right if we find they have gone wrong...and put the complainant in the position he or she would have been in but for the maladministration. But they do not do this. They cover up the maladministration by not investigating, and do nothing to get the council to take action to ensure the wall is removed and tree planting undertaken in accordance with the approved plan and Planning Agreement. The LGO's decision is perverse, irrational, and unhinged.

Photographs & Plan



The above photograph shows the concrete block wall eyesore built without planning permission. This area is shown in the Planning Agreement and approved residential development plan as amenity screen tree planting.



The above photograph shows another view of the concrete block wall eyesore. The vegetation in front of the wood fence are nettles, thistles and rough grasses. The area should have been a grass bank with amenity screen tree planting.



The above photograph shows the concrete block wall eyesore prior to colonisation with nettles, thistles and rough grasses.



The location of the concrete block wall is shown by the red arrow on above plan. The plan also shows amenity screen tree planting. You can see from the above photographs that the wall prevents the amenity screen tree planting.