City of York Council is to apologise to a man involved in a long-running dispute about the “unsightly” view from his home.
The man had been contacting the council about a field next to his home that he said had been unlawfully developed over the last 16 years.
He said the authority had failed to take appropriate and timely action over a breach of planning rules.
The field is used for the owner’s landscaping business and features hardstanding areas, scrap metal, bricks, large machinery, skips and building materials.
The man said the council had allowed the development of the site, against green belt restrictions on the land, and complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO).
It is beyond the Ombudsman’s powers to decide whether planning rules have been broken, but an inspector did rule that the council has caused “significant uncertainty by failing to keep him updated” about his case.
From when the man complained to the council in 2018, there was a delay of almost seven months until he received any contact and the complaint took almost three years to reach closure.
The council told the complainant in 2021 that its planning enforcement team faced a growing number of reports and issues with staffing, and could not respond to all the emails it was getting about the site – which was not named in the LGSCO report.
Last year, York Labour’s Cllr Claire Douglas said she had “grave concerns” about the department’s workload.
Responding to the LGSCO, the council said the site in question was some distance from the complainant’s property, that any harm to the greenbelt was “extremely limited” and that the case was a low priority.
It also said there was an element of “neighbour dispute” to the case.
Council officers did at various points visit the site and speak to the landowner about the issue.
The council has agreed to apologise to the complainant and pay him £300 in recognition of its “repeated failure” to respond to his correspondence and the drift in dealing with the enforcement case.