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Complaint about Cornish equestrian development sparks investigation by Ombudsman

Cornwall Council has been asked to review its planning process following a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO). 

A woman, who lived in a quiet part of the county in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), complained that the council did not reach appropriate planning decisions when her neighbour put horses and equestrian facilities on agricultural land without planning permission.

The LGO’s investigation found that the council’s planning committee decided that the neighbour could keep some horses on the land, but that ownership and use of them should be restricted to the neighbour and her family in order to prevent commercial use.

But councillors were not given the relevant legal advice or told of officers’ concerns about the decision so they could weigh up differing views. The council did not record decisions properly – particularly in relation to enforcement action that should be taken.

This meant that when officers served a notice on the neighbour it did not restrict who owned and used horses on the land and the neighbour was able to let the facilities to tenants who used them more intensively that she had done. Because of this, the woman suffered more disturbance and problems associated with the keeping of horses near her home.

Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin said:

“The complainant has had to raise concerns with the council over many months to establish the proper use of the land next to her home, because of the way Cornwall Council administered planning meetings. This led to many months of uncertainty over what should be happening on the land.

"I recommend that the council re-examine its processes to ensure that these sort of planning errors are not made again.”

The LGO has recommended that the council should review all of the planning issues complained about on the site and review its processes to make sure that members receive copies of earlier reports and decisions for planning enforcement matters.

The council should also ensure that decisions are recorded properly and reflect the report recommendations to which they refer and also amend its legal services referral form to require copies of relevant committee decisions.

The council should also pay the woman £400 for the uncertainty caused, and for the time and trouble the woman has gone to in bringing the complaint.



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