Brentwood Council pays man £1,000 compensation after admin error causes loss of privacy

Brentwood Council has apologised to a local resident and paid him £1,000 after an administrative fault meant he lost privacy from a block of flats built next to his house.

The man, referred to as “Mr X” in a Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report, complained the council failed to ensure a developer installed a privacy screen in line with planning conditions and approved drawings.

According to the report, the council failed to include planning drawings in its decision notice, meaning the developer did not have to fully adhere to them.

This impacted Mr X’s privacy and prevented the council from being able to take effective enforcement action.

A spokesperson for Brentwood Borough Council said in a statement: “An administrative error meant that the Council could not require the developer to adhere to the balcony drawings, other than the privacy screen, which impacted upon Mr X’s amenity.

“The council agreed to make a payment to Mr X to enable him to install a form of screening should he wish to restore his privacy, and apologised for the error.”

Mr X’s neighbour applied for planning permission to demolish a building and replace it with a three-storey block of flats in 2018, including a balcony on the first floor.

In March that year, the developer submitted drawings of the first floor and the balcony, which included plans for a short metal balustrade with planters between it and the balcony edge.

According to the report, a planning officer later acknowledged Mr X’s concerns about overlooking from the balcony and recommended a planning condition for a privacy screen.

In its decision notice, the council said the development should be carried out in accordance with the approved drawings listed in the notice, but two drawings were not included.

As a result, the developer could design the balcony in any format they saw fit provided they installed the privacy screen, the report says.

The balcony has been built without the balustrade and planters, but the developer has not breached any planning conditions because of the administrative fault by the council.

Mr X submitted a report to the council about “unauthorised development” at his neighbour’s property in July 2021, and made a formal complaint a month later and to the Ombudsman a month later, according to the report.

The Ombudsman said the fault “circumnavigated” Brentwood council’s intentions to protect Mr X’s amenity and said it should pay him so he can install his own form of screening, such as an evergreen tree.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter