Posted: Thu 5th Mar 2020

Senior officer pledges “embarrassing” failures over nuisance car wash won’t be repeated

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Mar 5th, 2020

A senior officer has pledged that a local authority’s “embarrassing” failure to deal with a resident’s complaint over a nuisance car wash will not be repeated.

Flintshire Council was ordered to pay £3,500 in compensation to the man after he suffered years of “persistent and intrusive” disruption as a result of maladministration.

A report issued by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales in January found the anonymous individual was exposed to unacceptable levels of noise and water spray from the business over a five-year period.

It concluded the council neglected to take timely and appropriate action to deal with the unnamed car wash, which was said to have been causing a statutory nuisance since 2014.

Chief planning officer Andrew Farrow told a meeting of councillors held yesterday that such delays would not happen again.

He also said steps had been taken to address the ten recommendations made by Ombudsman Nick Bennett.

He said: “It is embarrassing and it’s indefensible the actions that we didn’t take.

“It’s also really frustrating because I think most of you who have dealt with planning over the last two or three years will know that our approach to enforcement has changed.

“The personalities have changed; the processes have become much clearer and more transparent and therefore there’s a risk that this report going into the public domain undermines all of that.

“If you were to ask me now if I think that this could happen again in my portfolio, I’m 100 per cent certain that it wouldn’t happen again because we’ve got different people in place and different processes in place.”

According to a report presented to planning committee members, an enforcement notice was finally issued against the business in December last year.

While the owner has appealed against it, the council said they had since re-located their jet wash equipment to meet the requirements.

The authority also intends to prosecute them over equipment seized by its community and business protection team.

Despite the assurances provided, one councillor said he did not believe the problems had been fully resolved.

Cllr Owen Thomas, who represents Cilcain, highlighted an outstanding enforcement issue he first raised three years ago.

He said: “I do think this should never have come about and it could have been avoided.

“I don’t think we’ve learnt our lessons I’m sorry to say because I get more complaints from people e-mailing and writing into the county here and not getting replies.

“It’s not only the public, I get this off the community councils as well.

“They’re in the dark on everything and this is why I don’t think we’ve learnt our lesson.”

Mr Farrow said he did not agree with the criticism raised by Cllr Thomas.

He added anyone e-mailing the council regarding an enforcement issue would receive a response containing a case number and point of contact.

The committee’s vice-chair Cllr Richard Lloyd also spoke out in defence of the planning department.

He said: “Bear in mind that this is just one Ombudsman’s complaint that this council has had amongst thousands of planning applications.

“They’ve held their hands up and said they’ve made a mistake; arrangements are now being put in place for better co-operation and communication between departments and that’s all you can do.
“There’s no point going back to the past. Let’s look to the future and things are going to get better.”

At the end of the debate, members voted to support the actions being taken to resolve the Ombudsman’s concerns.

Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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