Ombudsman Critical of Ealing Council on Planning Procedure

Borough failed to produce key monitoring report for six years

Failure to produce report may have helped developers to successfully challenge refusal of tower block
Failure to produce report may have helped developers to successfully challenge refusal of tower block

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Ealing Council has been ruled at fault by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) in failure to produce a report on the development of its Local Plan for six years.

Despite complaints from Ealing Matters and other local residents the borough had failed to publish an Authority Monitoring Report for six years. Requests were made to the council for the report, which it has a statutory obligation to publish, beginning in 2016. Having exhausted the Council’s complaints procedure, a member of Ealing Matters decided to escalate the complaint to the LGO which, on 15 September, ruled in favour of the complaint.

The LGO’s decision notice includes its ‘firm recommendation… that a final AMR is published within three months of the date of the Ombudsman’s decision on this complaint…. The Ombudsman will consider the appropriate steps to be taken if the Council does not publish the final AMR within the stated timescale.'

A representative of Ealing Matters commented, “This decision has been a long time coming. The last published AMR covered 2013/14, and Individual residents have been asking the Council to publish the missing AMRs since 2016.. We are delighted that they have found in residents’ favour.”

AMRs form part of Ealing’s Local Plan, a suite of documents that outline the long-term planning strategy for the borough. The time frame for Local Plans is 10-15 years, but with the world changing so quickly, they should be reviewed and updated regularly. To this end, boroughs are required to report at least annually on the implementation and effectiveness of their Local Plan through their AMRs, which should be publicly available.

According to Ealing Matters, “AMRs sound dry and dull, but they are a crucial tool in ensuring that the council’s Plan is on track. The failure of the council to produce these statutorily required documents has made it impossible for residents to hold it to account on its planning decisions and easy for developers to claim that Ealing’s Local Plan is out of date and therefore irrelevant. A good example is the recent appeal against the Planning Committee’s decision not to approve the Manor Road tower by West Ealing station. The barrister acting for the developer, Southern Grove, argued that there should be a presumption in favour of the development precisely because the Council had failed to demonstrate a five-year housing land supply, which should be part of the AMR. We don’t yet know the result of the appeal, but should the Planning Inspector agree, it will be very difficult for the Planning Committee to refuse other inappropriate schemes. We consider this to be negligence on the part of the Council.”

Should it go ahead, the Manor Road development (planning ref: 202231FUL) would be on the corner of Drayton Green Road and Manor Road directly next to the new West Ealing Station. The application is for a single building of part 18 and part 12 storeys above a part double-height ground floor with part mezzanine floor.

A council spokesperson said, “We are committed to being an open and transparent council – and working with residents to develop the Local Plan is a top priority. We will be engaging with people ahead of a formal consultation next year so everyone can have their say on how we build a better borough for all in the future.

“The council accepts the Ombudsman’s findings and is taking steps to address the issue. Since May, the new administration has set out clear expectations for the AMR to be published.

“We are looking to publish an interim ARM imminently and the final report is due for publication in December.”

Ealing Matters is a borough-wide alliance of almost 70 residents’ associations and community groups. Its aims are to raise awareness of how Ealing is changing and to help local people shape these changes and enhance their quality of life.

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September 30, 2021

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