A man, known as 'Mr Y' in the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman’s anonymised report, applied for and later won planning permission for a development at his home.
Three neighbours, referred to as 'Mr X, Mr X and Ms X' complained, pointing out that the council planning department initially gave Mr Y pre-application advice against pursuing the proposal.
But the LGO report says this advice was “informal and non-binding”, and the authority was within its rights to eventually grant permission.
The ombudsman has declined to investigate further.
Three separate judgments, addressing each of the neighbours’ complaints with similar wording, say Mr Y applied for planning permission in 2019.
The three neighbours were aware of his plans and opposed them, and later went on to accuse the council of “failing to properly consider the objections” and not explaining its eventual decision, which appeared to contradict the pre-application advice, the reports say.
“The ombudsman will not investigate this complaint,” the reports say.
“The council’s pre-application advice to the applicant was informal and non-binding.
“Although it did not support the proposal at that stage it must consider relevant material planning considerations in making its decision on the formal application.”
'No evidence of fault'
The reports add that the neighbours also alleged that “the officer dealing with the case was biased in favour of the proposal without good reason and complains it [sic] published information in support of the application which was incorrect and irrelevant”.
The reports say: “There is no evidence of fault in the way the decision was made or to show the council took into account irrelevant or inaccurate information.
“While the planning officer and the council reached a decision with which [Mr Y’s neighbours] do not agree, the law does not allow us to criticise their judgment.
“The ombudsman will not investigate this complaint. This is because it is unlikely we would find fault in the way the council made its decision.”
One of the complainants also said the council “has failed to comply with a legal obligation to produce a code of conduct for its planning department”.
The report addressing his complaint says the authority has explained that it is not required to produce a specific code for the department.