Ombudsman finds fault with Luton Borough Council over 'late' invitation to planning meeting

The ombudsman for local government has upheld a complaint against Luton Borough Council after an invitation to a planning meeting was sent 'too late' to a resident.

Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 8:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th April 2021, 8:40 pm
Ground Construction Ltd on Toddington Road

Residents had protested they could no longer use their gardens or leave windows open after Ground Construction Limited began to make concrete building parts at its Toddington Road base.

Retrospective planning permission was granted at an online meeting of the development control committee in May last year (see story here).

A complaint was lodged with the ombudsman by a resident, who insisted he was only informed about the meeting the day after it was held - and the ombudsman has found fault with the council.

In evidence, the council agreed that their letter wasn't sent to the resident in time for the committee meeting in May.

"This is fault by the council," said the ombudsman.

"But [the resident] didn't suffer any injustice, because he wouldn't have been allowed to address the committee, having done so in February.

"The resident had submitted a lengthy written comment about the application alongside pictures and videos to support his objection."

The ombudsman saw a letter to the resident from the council in February 2018, warning it may treat him as a persistent complainer and restrict his access to the local authority.

Further to this, the chief executive emailed the man in October 2019 saying the council had “a policy of no further engagement".

The ombudsman said LBC failed to act in accordance with its unreasonable behaviour by complainants policy because the email was sent to a generic community address, not the resident individually.

"It didn't include details of how long its action would last for, or set out a review date or a right of appeal against the decision," he explained. "This is fault by the council.

"The resident isn't clear how the council is responding to his complaints."

LBC agreed to write to the resident to clarify how it will respond to him and to issue guidance to staff to ensure its complaints policy is followed.