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Conduct and Complaints

How do I know decisions will be made fairly?

Planning law sets out the basis for decisions. Also, each local planning authority is required to prepare a Code of Conduct for Councillors.

This is based on the Welsh Government’s Model Code of Conduct for Councillors, which includes a specific requirement that Members should approach planning decisions with an open mind, fairly and impartially, and be seen to do so.

Members cannot prejudge an application before seeing the full details at Committee. They are also required to declare any interest – for example, whether they have a financial interest in the development, or familial relationship or acquaintance with the applicant.  The nature of an interest may restrict the Member’s ability to participate in the decision making process.

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales can investigate claims that a Member has failed to abide by a local planning authority’s Code of Conduct.

Visit: Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Website (external link)

How do I know officer delegated decisions will be made fairly?

Local planning authorities are required to have in place a scheme of delegation. This sets out what types of application will be delegated for officer determination and when they can be recovered for decision by the Planning Committee.

This scheme should be available to be viewed by members of the public on your local planning authority’s website.

How do I complain about a planning decision or the way I have been treated?

The first method of complaint should be to contact the relevant Planning Department. This gives the Chief Planning Officer the opportunity to identify the problem and resolve it internally. If you are not satisfied with the response you may contact the Council’s Monitoring Officer, who will consider your complaint.

The final course of action is to contact the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, who can investigate cases of personal injustice that have arisen through maladministration, or allegations that Members have breached their authority’s Code of Conduct. However, the Ombudsman will instruct you to exhaust all other avenues of complaint before considering your case.

Visit: Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Website (external link)

What should I do if I think someone has acted unlawfully in relation to a planning application?

This may be a matter for the police. Care should be taken not to make unfounded accusations, particularly in correspondence with third parties, as this could lead to claims of slander or libel. However, accusations that someone has wilfully or knowingly undertaken fraudulent activity in relation to a planning issue is a matter for the police, who may decide to investigate.

I think a planning decision is wrong, what can I do?

Local planning authorities have powers to remove or change any applications they have approved. They may also require the use of any land be discontinued. Revocation and Modification Orders are used rarely. Such Orders must be confirmed by the Welsh Government, unless they are unopposed. Discontinuous Orders must always be confirmed by the Welsh Government.

Using these powers will typically incur costs for the local planning authority, as compensation for the developers’ investment. In some cases, these costs could be quite large and as a result, these powers are not used very often.

If a planning authority refuses to consider use of these powers, then it is possible to seek judicial review of a planning decision, on the grounds that the way it was handled was flawed.

Visit: Judiciary of England and Wales Guidance on the Judicial Review Process (external link)

My planning authority is not offering pre application advice, or is not responding to my letters, what can I do?

While most authorities offer pre-application discussions they are not obliged to do so. If they don’t, you can hire a Planning Consultant. These are normally privately or self-employed planners with experience of working in the local area. They should be able to offer advice, although they will charge a fee.

If you are having difficulty communicating with your local planning authority, then your local Councillor can speak for you in the local planning authority meetings. They can also contact officers if you are having difficulty getting hold of them.

Finally, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales can investigate complaints of poor customer service delivery.

Visit: Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Website (external link)

I want to get some information from my Local Planning Authority.

Local planning authorities are required to make certain information publicly available, such as a register of current planning applications. Additionally, a great deal of useful information is normally available from your local planning authority’s office, including guidance on the planning system, and on local planning policies.

All public bodies in the UK fall under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. It requires them to provide any information you ask for, so long as it is not exempt from the Act.

There are certain exemptions, including other people’s personal data, which is protected by the Data Protection Act 1998. Failure to provide information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 may lead to an investigation by the Office of the Information Commissioner. This is the independent governing body responsible for administering implementation of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Visit: Information Commissioner’s Office Website (external link)

I want to complain about the Welsh Government.

In the first instance, you should write to the relevant Head of Division. For planning, this is Neil Hemington.

You can contact Neil Hemington by:

Post

Mr Neil Hemington
Deputy Director – Planning Division
Welsh Government
Cathays Park
Cardiff
CF10 3NQ

E-mail

Planning.Division@wales.gsi.gov.uk

Complaints procedure

If you are not satisfied with our response, then you should follow our complaints procedure.

http://wales.gov.uk/contact_us/makeacomplaint/?lang=en

If you are not satisfied with our response to your complaint, you may pursue the matter with the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

Visit: Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Website (external link)

I want to complain about my neighbour’s hedge, who do I need to speak to?

Informal negotiations to resolve disputes over hedges are the best way to deal with disputes over high hedges. However if this does not resolve the situation satisfactorily, mediation should be considered.

If this also fails, a formal complaint can be made to your local planning authority. They will investigate your complaint but you will usually be charged a fee of up to £320. This fee is payable whether the complaint is resolved in your favour or not as it covers the costs incurred by the local planning authority’s investigation of the complaint. Appeals against the Authority’s decision will be dealt with on appeal to the Planning Inspectorate usually in written.

Visit: Planning Inspectorate Website (external link)