Relevant Ombudsman Cases
i) In a case against West Wiltshire District Council in 2007, the
‘… Ombudsman found maladministration which caused the complainants injustice as a result of their sense of outrage that Members granted planning permission without knowing the views of the Conservation Officer and because they will never know whether a development they consider highly inappropriate for the Conservation Area might have been avoided.’
The Council has agreed to make a payment of £2,000 to the Preservation Trust to be used for a project of benefit to the Conservation Area.
ii) In a case of against Darlington Borough Council, of 11 December 2008, the Local Government Ombudsman found that ‘the reports on which the Planning Area Committee made its decisions were deficient’.  In particular, the report on which it decided to approve demolitions and conversions of the listed buildings failed:
- to correctly identify the buildings that were listed;
- to explain the general presumption in favour of preserving listed buildings;
- to clearly explain the proper tests for the committee to apply as set out in national Planning Policy Guidance 15 and confirmed by case law, i.e. first: will the proposed works significantly harm the listed building or its setting; second: if so, are the works desirable or necessary?;
- to provide the information necessary to apply the second test;
- to include a highly relevant point from an earlier decision by a Planning Inspector.’
The Ombudsman concluded that the Council would not have approved the partial demolition of a long barn ‘if the Committee had been properly advised’.
Based on the evidence, it was considered that formal input from a skilled Conservation Officer, properly input to the administrative processes, would have avoided an especially damaging case both as regards the quality of the area and the standing of the Council.
iii) In February of 2010 the Local Government Ombudsman reported on the investigation of complaints about the way Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council granted permissions for a listed Victorian Schoolroom to be demolished and for new houses to be built on the site. 
The Ombudsman ‘… concluded that the Council’s maladministration caused injustice to the people who complained… [through] the potential loss of part of their area’s built heritage that contributes to the setting of the distinctive, listed Chapel and the general character of the Conservation Area.’
The investigation found that ‘there were serious errors and omissions in the report and presentation to the Sub-Committee that granted the permissions.’ This included the fact that the‘… Planning Officer accepted the applicant’s case without applying any of the tests required by English Heritage for such “enabling” development’ and that the Sub-Committee were not told of:
- ‘the law requiring them to have special regard to preserving the listed Schoolroom;
- national planning guidance that there should be a general presumption in favour of preserving listed buildings;
- the specific tests that they should have applied before giving permission for the Schoolroom to be demolished;
- relevant comments from the Council’s own conservation specialists.’
Among the major failings highlighted by the Ombudsman was the fact that, of ‘32 photographs… shown to the Sub-Committee to illustrate the dilapidated condition of the Schoolroom – 24 of them were of a completely different building’.
The Ombudsman considered:‘that the applications would not have been approved if the officers had applied the correct tests and advised the Sub-Committee properly relevant comments from the Council’s own conservation specialists.’
The Ombudsman then concluded that the Council should remedy its ‘maladministration causing injustice’
, by ‘seeking to negotiate for the permissions to be relinquished in favour of a new scheme, for which it will meet reasonable design costs and planning application fees. In the event that negotiations fail the Council should consider revoking the permissions after considering a full report on all the relevant issues.’
No estimate of the final cost to the Council has been provided.
iv) In the case of an investigation of Calderdale the local Government Ombudsman found that the Council had ‘acted with maladministration’ because of its management of a sensitive involving ‘an extension and alterations to a primary school next to a Grade 2* listed 17th century hall’, noting in particular that ‘only 6% of listed buildings are Grade 1 or Grade 2*.  The Ombudsman recorded substantial criticisms at the same time as welcoming the no less substantial response by the Council to its failings. Reflecting the scale of the problems, the Council agreed to:
- discuss with English Heritage, the School and the residents of the Hall the best way to deal with the boundary footpath and the need for significant screening;
- meet English Heritage’s costs for making the recommendations;
- ensure that officers responsible for promoting and project managing developments are fully briefed about the heritage stewardship responsibilities that they discharge on behalf of the Council;
- ensure that all employees in the planning service are properly trained, supported and supervised to: identify planning applications with heritage stewardship implications; notify relevant bodies and organisations; take account of all relevant law, regulations, guidance and material factors;
- make payments to the residents of the Hall to reflect their time, trouble and stress in pursuing their complaints;
- report its failure to conduct its business lawfully in its 2008/09 Annual Governance Statement; and
- review its system of internal control and operating cultures in the services concerned to identify the factors that allowed this failure to occur and determine whether action can be taken to avoid any recurrence.’
These substantial remedies were in response to findings including that:
‘The law required the Council as planning authority to notify English Heritage, to take account of its comments, and to consider the setting of a heritage building of national importance when it dealt with the planning application for the School extension and refurbishment. It failed to do so ...’
Also, it was determined that the Council
‘failed to have any regard to the effect of its proposals for the School extension on the setting of the Grade 2* listed Hall and did not comply with the guidance in Planning Policy Guidance 15 about shared and wide-spread responsibility for preserving the nation’s built heritage.’
The Ombudsman again concluded that these procedural failings amounted to maladministration.