East Lindsey District Council failed to properly carry out an investigation into whether unauthorised caravan pitches breached planning law as part of a stopover scheme, an investigation has concluded.
The authority was the subject of a complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman by a Mr X, who said a scheme which allowed motorhome tourists to stay overnight in certain pub, hotel or restaurant car parks was being breached.
The scheme allows the caravan to use the parking space for free for no-more than two nights for a maximum of 28 days a year. Any longer and the site requires a license.
ELDC’s initial response to Mr X said it had looked into the scheme found the sites he had complained about would not need a license, but that it would send a letter to the sites. However, Mr X disagreed with the council’s interpretation of the law.
The authority also only investigated sites Mr X had sent photographs of rather than all the sites he had mentioned.
The Ombudsman found the council had delayed its response for more than two months, that it did not carry out full investigations in line with its planning enforcement policy and did not follow proper decision making processes.
It also failed to provide the complainant with regular updates and took six months to send an advisory letter to the sites telling them they could be breaching the rules. The ombudsman said this was an “undue delay” and the letter “did not accurately reflect the law”.
“I cannot say what the outcome would have been, had the council properly investigated the alleged breaches and followed a proper decision making process,” said the ombudsman report.
“However, Mr X has been put to significant time and trouble in pursuing his complaints with the Council. And the Council has still not properly investigated his allegations.”
The council said it was entitled to decide there was no breach of planning control.
It told the ombudsman it “did not consider it necessary” to visit all the sites, as Mr X had only evidenced two.
They added they had provided training to staff since the complaint and prior to the decision.
The authority was told to give a written apology to Mr X and pay him £300 for his trouble.
They were also told to carry out site visits and investigate his allegations, inform him of the decision and write to the sites involved in the scheme with “accurate advice with reference to the relevant law”.