Having established in the Calderdale case above that a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman against the decisions and acts of an LPA can be an effective remedy for those dissatisfied, this recent case provides a useful contrast to highlight the lack of remedial bite which the Ombudsman can suffer from.
The complaint concerned the way that Tynedale Council considered a planning application to change the use of an agricultural building to a home. The application included the erection of a 9 m high domestic wind turbine to avoid the need to mount 1.6 km of power lines on poles, which would reduce the amenity of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in which the building was situated and present a danger to wildlife.
The Council had an established policy to ensure that overhead power lines were not installed across areas of outstanding natural beauty. It had therefore imposed conditions on other grants of planning permission requiring that power lines were placed underground. In approving the application in this case however, the council failed to impose such a condition. As a result the developer decided not to build a wind turbine and instead erected power lines on poles.
The Ombudsman found that the Council should have included a condition preventing the developer from following this course of action in the event that he chose not to erect a wind turbine. To remedy the injustice, the Ombudsman recommended that the Council should negotiate with the developer and the power supply company to remove the overhead power supply and install a wind turbine at the Council’s expense. In the alternative, the Council should otherwise negotiate with both parties to ensure that the power supply is placed underground, again at the Council’s expense. The Council declined to fulfil the remedy, so the Ombudsman issued a further report. The Council accepted the Ombudsman’s findings, but again declined to fulfil the remedy.
This case offers a warning as to the potential limitations of the Ombudsman and shows why third parties often seek judicial review of LPA decisions.