• Case ref:
    201704421
  • Date:
    December 2018
  • Body:
    The Highland Council
  • Sector(s):
    Local Government
  • Subject:
    complaints handling
  • Outcome:
    Upheld, recommendations

Summary

Mr C complained that the council failed to provide a reasonable response to his correspondence about planning and enforcement and other issues in relation to land near his home.

We took independent advice from a planning adviser. We found that, in general, the council had tried to address the issues Mr C raised in his correspondence. However, we identified a number of failings:

• the council did not provide an adequate explanation to Mr C about their delay in progressing matters in relation to a planning breach

• they did not advise him that he should notify them of a planning breach through their electronic enforcement system

• their response could have been clearer in relation to whether action that was being taken would resolve the enforcement issues

• their response incorrectly stated that the enforcement case must be suspended until planning applications had been determined

• they did not provide an adequate response to his comments about aggregation in relation to procurement

• they should have taken further action in relation to comments made in advertising by one of their contractors

• they failed to keep him updated on the delay in responding to his complaint.

In view of these failings, we upheld Mr C's complaint.

Recommendations

What we asked the organisation to do in this case:

  • Apologise to Mr C for the failings in relation to the handling of his correspondence to them. The apology should meet the standards set out in the SPSO guidelines on apology available at www.spso.org.uk/leafletsand-guidance.
  • Investigate and provide a response to Mr C's comments about aggregation.

What we said should change to put things right in future:

  • It should be clear from the Council's Enforcement Charter that anyone who did not make the initial complaint regarding a breach of consent, will not be kept informed of actions taken by the council to address that breach or of the outcomes. The Charter should provide a link to the enforcement register so that customers can track progress of any enforcement action themselves.

We have asked the organisation to provide us with evidence that they have implemented the recommendations we have made on this case by the deadline we set.