CPBC decision makers in need of Reminding of Accountability, via Local Government Ombudsman?

Canvey Residents may have witnessed the “flexibility” towards Planning Guidance as demonstrated by Castle Point Council’s Development Committee, where matters such as Flood Risk, Danger to Residents Safety, Drainage, undersized Parking facilities, Lack of Parking Spaces, lack of Space between Dwellings and the possibility of being Over-looked, to our cost!

Indeed mainland residents have also voiced frustrations on these matters, to no avail.

There is an apparent expectation that by fulfilling the minimum notification to residents of forthcoming proposed Development, opposition through the consultation process will be equally, minimal! And a Hope that nobody will notice proposals for development until Trees are being pulled down or Groundwork, or in the case of Canvey Land Raising, being carried out, which by then is of course, too Late!

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There is no doubt that on Canvey Island following the 2013 and 2014 Surface Water Flooding and the much Edited and Delayed 2010 cpbc Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA), in which Canvey Island is classed as being at Actual Risk of Tidal Flooding, that the approach to development on the Island is Long Out of Date, and in Need of Review!

As can be witnessed by our previous Blog Post the basis for reviewing development where Flood Risk on Canvey Island is concerned was decided in early 2007, long before the SFRA and the 2013 and 2014 flooding exposed the Castle Point council’s Development Committee decision as badly Flawed and long Out of Date!

The Responsibility for the impact of granting planning permission rests solely with the local authority and the development committee. The recent fire at Grenfell Tower has resulted in serious investigation of decision making, as is quite correct.

In Canvey Island there are obvious issues that would expect a limit on the population level, simply due to the issues of coping with the number of people should any evacuation be necessary or Safe refuges found. Recent events have shown Lessons are still being Learned, as Responses from all so called Agencies have been found inadequate!

Which brings us to the Accountability of our local Decision Makers.

 

Council which ignored Planning Duties reminded of Ombudsman Accountability Role

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.

The LGO 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 in the neighbourhood, 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 in the report.

Consequently, one resident says she no longer has any late afternoon sunshine in her kitchen, sitting room and dining room and has a Juliet balcony overlooking her garden and decking in the new garden affords an uninterrupted view into her bedroom

The other couple feel overlooked and their outlook is dominated by a two-storey house.

Both homeowners say their properties now flood because of inadequate consideration of drainage of surface water from the site

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

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said:

“The role of the Local Government Ombudsman to hold councils to account when they get things wrong is well established and has a statutory basis.

“Authorities can and do have the chance to comment on my decisions before they are finalised, including providing evidence if they wish to challenge the findings, but they should cooperate with the investigation process. Compliance with LGO recommendations is extremely high, based on a relationship with local authorities of mutual trust and respect. This is essential for achieving redress for citizens.

“I would now urge Plymouth council to learn from my report and accept the recommendations for remedy I have made.”

To remedy the injustice caused Plymouth City Council has been asked to apologise to both families.  It should ask the District Valuer to assess the current value of the complainants’ properties and the value each would have had if the developers had built according to the original plans and pay the difference between the two valuations.

It should pursue the proposals in the drainage report completed in the course of the investigation and ensure adequate drainage is in place before the onset of winter. It should arrange for all members of its planning committee to have at least one day’s training from professionally qualified planning officers who are not employed by the council to ensure they can robustly challenge planning officers  views prior to making decisions

The council should also pay both families £500 each in recognition of the time and trouble to which they have been put.

Article date: 15 September 2016

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3 responses to “CPBC decision makers in need of Reminding of Accountability, via Local Government Ombudsman?

  1. Editor
    The CPBC “Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment Scoping Report”
    New Local Plan January 2012
    Recorded inter-alia :-

    Given the risk to the population, various measures are required to deal with the concerns to human health and wellbeing. These include:

    • The need for an emergency plan to be in place;
    • The need for sea defences to be maintained and improved;
    • The need to maintain the population living in the flood risk zone at current levels or lower;
    • The need for existing homes to be made more flood resilient, and include areas where people can remain safe in the event of a flood;
    • The need for new development to incorporate design elements that make them safe in the event of a flood for occupiers;
    • The need for building techniques to be used that enable easy restoration in the event of a flood.

    The Local Authority Ombudsman would find it difficult to understand CPBC drive for housing development on Canvey Island since January 2012. given the above observation within the councils own Scoping Report.
    The actual and proposed level of population directed at Canvey Island since this report, has and will continue to put a greater number at risk on an Island at Flood Zone 3 risk, without the possibility of a logistical emergency evacuation

  2. If all of this is so self evident why has this group not approached the local ombudsman? Reading the blog it also appears that the Ombudsman has no teeth and so cannot enforce its recommendations, this being the case are CPBC Development Control Committee any more likely to take any notice of them than they do of the local population??

  3. Editor
    Stan has a point, we are advised as follows :-

    “The Local Government Ombudsman provides a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result the Ombudsman aims to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy”.

    The term recommending is as we have pointed out in passed blogs just that a recommendation. What we have experienced from CPBC is that recommendation are considered but not acted upon, and mostly not referred to by planning officers when deliberating builds on Canvey Island.
    Having said this the Ombudsman is a option not fully explored and a 10,000 signature campaign would carry weight.
    Apathy carries nothing.

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