Council must pay compensation as Ombudsman find faults in planning permission process

Out-Law News | 29 Aug 2013 | 3:12 pm | 1 min. read

The Local Government Ombudsman has said that a local authority failed properly to assess an application for planning permission against planning policies and has ordered that compensation be paid to householders.

The London Borough of Redbridge has been found to be at fault by the Ombudsman, which has ordered that an assessment be made of the damage caused to the value of houses affected by the decision and compensation paid to the owners of those houses.

The case relates to the building of a 4.15 metre high wall on the grounds of a school and the granting of planning permission for the courtyard structure of which the wall was a part. Permission was granted in 2009.

The Ombudsman said that the Council was at fault for an "absence of any meaningful assessment of the appearance and size of the proposal in relation to the surrounding area and consideration of the neighbours' amenity".

Three residents whose properties were beside the school grounds complained about the wall. The Ombudsman said that the Council has conceded that 4.15m high walls along boundaries in residential areas are not common unless the residential properties adjoin commercial or industrial premises.

As a result of this the Ombudsman states that the planning officer's report "should in particular have assessed the development's compatibility with the character of the surrounding area and the impact on residential amenity against [its] policies". The fact that the officer's report did not do this amounted to fault.

The Council referred to another courtyard development where the boundary structure height was 1.7m but the Ombudsman noted that this was "less than half the height of the school's courtyard extension".

The Ombudsman ruled that there may have been detrimental harm to the value of the residential properties. It said that the District Valuer should carry out valuations of the properties as they are now and as they might have been had the Council required the wall to be reduced in height to 1.7m, which was the height of the boundary of the other courtyard development referred to by the Council. It said that the Council must pay the homeowners compensation for any fall in the value of their properties based on this assessment.

The residents said that they did not receive notification letters relating to the development proposals. However, in relation to this aspect of the complaint the Ombudsman found that the Council was not at fault as the Ombudsman concluded that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the letters had not been sent.

The Council was also ordered to pay each of the residents £100 for their time and trouble in pursuing the complaint.