Apology and compensation given to residents left in dark about mast plan
- Credit: Archant
Barking and Dagenham Council has installed new systems to prevent a repeat of an error where it failed to inform neighbouring residents about a planned phone mast.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has published a report of its findings in relation to a complaint from two residents, referred to as Ms X and Mr Y, who lived opposite the site of the mast.
They said the council used the wrong postcode for the application site, meaning they were not notified about the proposal when it was submitted for prior approval.
The ombudsman said a council "plotting error" meant residents who lived 400 metres south of the site were sent notification letters instead of "those nearby".
"I consider this fault by the council as the error meant Ms X and Mr Y were denied the opportunity to comment on the development before the council decided whether prior approval was required."
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The council apologised to Ms X and offered to pay £50 "to recognise the uncertainty, time and trouble she has been put to".
But the ombudsman told the authority to increase the sum to £100.
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A council spokesperson said: “There was an error in that the residents who were notified were not the closest to the site.
"The complainant has been compensated as required by the ombudsman and new systems installed to ensure that this does not happen again.”
The ombudsman said Ms X and other residents complained to the council when the applicant began installing the mast.
She also outlined concerns about the impact of the mast on her mental health.
But the ombudsman said planning law and government guidance means the council would not have been able to take that into consideration when assessing the application.
Their report also said the plotting error caused "limited injustice" to Ms X and Mr Y.
"Although Ms X considers the mast visually harmful to her, this is not grounds for the council to refuse the application.
"Because of this I consider the outcome would have been the same with the development going ahead even if Ms X and Mr Y had been notified and able to send in comments."
The council spokesperson said the report highlighted it was not a planning application but a notification under a prior approval procedure.
“The council can only control siting and appearance of the development", they added.
"In this case, it was not considered that siting of this mast was a reason to refuse."