Mid Sussex District Council has apologised after the Local Government Ombudsman upheld a complaint involving one of its planning decisions.
The ombudsman was contacted by a woman – known as Mrs B – from Haywards Heath who had objected to plans to demolish and rebuild a care home next to her house.
The application to demolish Beech Hurst Nursing Home in Butlers Green Road and build a replacement care home was considered and approved by the council’s district planning committee in June 2018.
Mrs B said that, during the meeting, she was misquoted by a member of the committee who felt her call for frosted windows to be installed on the third floor was ‘an unacceptable suggestion’ – she had actually asked for velux windows.
She also felt that a picture of the site and its surroundings which were shown to the committee was ‘misleading’.
Mrs B told the ombudsman that, in both cases, the chairman had refused her permission to speak out and had told members ‘that they should not consider some of her comments as they were not relevant’.
In her complaint, she said the council should have provided her with some guidance about speaking at the meeting, and that committee members should have actually visited the site so that they could see how the work would affect neighbouring homes.
A report from the ombudsman said: “Mrs B believes the council failed to properly consider the application.
“She says that local residents were not opposed to the building being updated. But they did want the windows on the third floor to be velux, to be consulted about the landscaping, for the proposed delivery site to be moved and for no building work to be carried out before 9am during the week or over the weekends.”
The ombudsman ruled that the information provided to the planning committee had failed to clearly show the impact the work would have on neighbouring homes.
While acknowledging that it was unlikely to have affected the outcome of the decision, the ombudsman recognised the frustration caused to Mrs B.
It ordered the council to apologise and take action to ‘prevent similar failings in the future’.
Andrew Macnaughton, the council’s cabinet member for housing and planning, said: “Following receipt of the ombudsman’s decision that our actions, although not affecting the planning decision, did cause the complainant some frustration we have formally apologised.
“Further, we have reminded staff of the need to show the impact of all planning applications on neighbouring properties.”