07 May 2021

In what was only a hollow victory for the owner, the almost toothless Local Government Ombudsman has given Worcester City Council only a small slap on the wrist for giving a landlord false information as part of his Pre Application planning advice which later led to his full planning application being thrown out.

Leaving the landlord £10,000s out of pocket this just goes, once again to show the futility of the Pre Application plantain advice system since this so called advice is always caveated that advice that planning ‘might’ be granted is not guaranteed and that they effectively take no responsibility for the advice given.

Of course in these days of purely money-motivated and unaccountable councils, you can no longer even have a conversation with a planning (or should that be anti-planning) officer unless you croft their palm with large amounts of money. 

As reported in the Worcester News, Worcester city council has been ordered to pay £15,000 compensation to a man after a planning cock-up left him out of pocket and unable to carry out work he was assured was acceptable.

Worcester City Council rejected a plan to convert a home in the city’s Comer Road into a house of multiple occupation (HMO) last year claiming it would breach policy despite advising there were no issues with the plan before it was put forward.

Applicant Mark James was told by the city council that his plan to convert the home into a six-bed HMO was satisfactory before the plans were formally submitted and he bought the Comer Road house based on the council’s advice before asking for planning permission a month later.

Council policy puts a limit on the number of new HMOs in any given area of the city with plans rejected if it means more than 10 per cent of properties within a 100 metre radius are HMOs.

Mr James was originally told his plan would push the number to eight per cent in Comer Road – still below the council’s own threshold – when it was actually more than 21 per cent.

The city council admitted its error but has now been instructed to compensate Mr James to the tune of £15,000 by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

However, the ombudsman did not tell the council to cover the estimated cost of £26,000 in full saying Mr James could still sell the house or rent it out.

Mr James has maintained that he would not have bought the house had it not been for the council’s advice.
Following the rejection by the council, Mr James appealed to the government’s planning inspectorate hoping to get the decision overturned but it was again rejected.

The inspector backed the council and threw out an application to cover costs saying it could not be shown that the council had behaved unreasonably.

The government inspector said the council’s reasons for rejecting the plan were “complete, precise, specific and relevant.”

After the plan was rejected by the inspector, Mr James complained again asking the council to stump up the money he had lost buying and selling the house as a result of the bad advice and incorrect information from the council.

Link to original article

The council apologised to Mr James for the error but declined to meet his costs maintaining that it only had offered advice and planning permission was not guaranteed which led to the successful complaint to the local government ombudsman.

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