Compensation paid after phone mast consultation letters sent to wrong addresses

Barking and Dagenham Council has admitted to an “error” when it failed to inform the correct residents about a proposal for a phone mast.

Residents who live 400 metres south of the planned site erroneously received letters concerning plans for the phone mast instead of those nearby.

Two residents who live opposite the planned site, known anonymously as Ms X and Mr Y, submitted a complaint after work on installing the mast began, leading to a report on the issue by the local government and social care ombudsman.

The ombudsman said that a council “plotting error” led to the wrong postcode being listed as the application site, causing the consultation letters to be sent to the wrong addresses.

Ms X, in submitting her complaint, highlighted the impact that the mast would have on her mental health.

But the ombudsman’s report stated that this was not a factor that the council could consider when assessing an application of this kind.

The council issued an apology to Ms X and offered to pay her £50 in compensation, which the ombudsman said should be increased to £100.

However, the report did add that the mistake had only caused “limited injustice” to the residents affected.

The ombudsman said: “Although Ms X considers the mast visually harmful to her, this is not grounds for the council to refuse the application.

“Because of this I consider the outcome would have been the same with the development going ahead even if Ms X and Mr Y had been notified and able to send in comments.”

A spokesperson for Barking and Dagenham council admitted that a mistake had been made.

They said: “The ombudsman report clearly outlines that this was not a planning application – rather a notification under a prior approval procedure.

“Health issues which were the main objection of the complainants, is not one that can be considered under this legislation, as the ombudsman clearly states in their determination.

“The ombudsman considered the outcome would have been the same, under the legislation that we can work within, so limited injustice had been caused. There was an error in that the residents who were notified were not the closest to the site.

“The complainant has been compensated as required by the ombudsman and new systems installed to ensure that this does not happen again.”

Alastair Lockhart

Local Democracy Reporter