Council not to be punished over mislabelled planning application

The local government watchdog has decided not to punish a council for mislabelling a two-storey house as a bungalow in a planning application.

The ombudsman notes that one couple – referred to as “Mr and Mrs X” – complained about the planned Telford & Wrekin development, which changed from one to two-storey and was next to their home, but they argue more of their neighbours might have objected if it had been labelled correctly.

In the report, the watchdog investigator says “I can find no evidence that additional consultation would have altered the outcome”.

Telford and Wrekin Council conducted an internal investigation, accepted fault, apologised to the couple and offered them £150 compensation for a delay in responding to their official complaint. The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report calls this a “satisfactory remedy”.

“The council did not re-consult Mr and Mrs X, or any other neighbours, when plans for a neighbouring property were amended from a bungalow to a two-storey house,” the report author writes.

“The council was also at fault as it did not change the description of the planning application online.”

“The report included Mr and Mrs X’s objection to the application, including their concerns about overlooking from windows on the second floor.”

The planning officer noted that the two-storey section of the new house would be 12 metres from Mr and Mrs X’s boundary and 25 metres from the closest part of their house. The minimum separation distances for two-storey homes are 10 metres from the boundary and 21 metres from each other.

Mr and Mrs X also complained the council did not impose a condition on the housebuilder requiring “obscure glazing to reduce overlooking of their property".

The council said, given the distance between the houses, it was not required to do this.

The officer concluded the altered plans “would not affect neighbours’ amenity” and the application was approved in October 2017.

Despite Telford and Wrekin Council’s admission of fault, Mr and Mrs X “remain dissatisfied”, according to the LGO report.

“Mrs X explained to me that she thinks other neighbours may have objected to the amended plans if they had been consulted, and this may have resulted in the council refusing the planning application for the two-storey house,” the investigator writes.

“It is over the minimum separation distances required, so I do not consider that the council would have refused or amended the application if they had been able to object.

“So, I do not consider that the fault caused injustice to Mr and Mrs X, although I recognise that they will always wonder if things might have been different.”

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