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Ombudsman orders Maidstone council to pay resident £500 after it ignored his complaints

Maidstone Borough Council has been ordered by the Local Government Ombudsman to pay a Staplehurst resident £500 compensation.

The council also has to provide him with a letter of apology after it repeatedly failed to follow up on his complaints about a breach of planning conditions at a neighbouring development site.

David Phipps could not get Maidstone council to take any action
David Phipps could not get Maidstone council to take any action

The Ombudsman said the council had not followed a proper decision-making process nor communicated its decisions properly to the complainant, David Phipps.

It also said the council should within three months give further training to its enforcement officers to ensure they correctly carried out the council's own policies in future.

The ruling followed a decision by the council to grant planning permission for 250 homes to be built on land at Hen and Duckhurst Farm in Marden Road, Staplehurst, back in February 2017.

The council attached a condition to the approval that no construction or deliveries could take place on Sundays, bank holidays or outside the hours of 8am until 6pm, Monday to Friday, or outside 9am until 1pm on Saturday.

Neighbour Mr Phipps, of Marden Road, claimed that the developer - David Wilson Homes - breached the condition from the start of work at the end of 2018.

Maidstone Borough Council was at fault, the Ombudsman ruled
Maidstone Borough Council was at fault, the Ombudsman ruled

He made repeated complaints to the council that the developers were working outside the permitted hours, disturbing his amenity and privacy.

He reported breaches in October and December, 2018, and in January and March, 2019, at which point the council issued him with a diary to record breaches, which he did for the next three months showing the company regularly worked outside of the permitted hours both during the week and at weekends.

However, the council took no action against the developer other than to advise the firm it should respect the planning condition.

The firm subsequently submitted a new planning application requesting the condition limiting working hours be lifted.

This was recommended for approval by planning officers but was refused by the planning committee, but council officers still failed to take any enforcement action against the planning breaches which continued.

The council said it had undertaken out-of-hours checks, but the Ombudsman could not find any record that it had in fact done so.

Instead the council eventually told Mr Phipps that it was closing its investigation without taking further action and without explaining why.

'I pay council tax,why aren't they working for me..?'

Finally, in December 2019, the council's Community Protection Team served a Noise Abatement Notice on the developer after receiving multiple complaints from third parties about noisy works on a Sunday.

Subsequently, the planning enforcement team did serve a Breach of Condition Notice on the company, which it said the firm then complied with.

Since then, Mr Phipps has complained in June this year of a further breach, which the council said it was still "investigating."

Mr Phipps said: "It just seemed that the council came up with every excuse possible to avoid taking action against the developer.

"I pay my council tax. Why were they not working to help me rather than the developer?"

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