'Injustice' over rural office plan

PUBLISHED: 11:49 10 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:08 06 May 2010

AN OMBUDSMAN has ruled that the residents of a rural road to be used as the access route for a new office complex have been treated badly by their local planning authority. Hertsmere Borough Council gave permission for the new office block at Home Farm Mu

AN OMBUDSMAN has ruled that the residents of a rural road to be used as the access route for a new office complex have been treated badly by their local planning authority.

Hertsmere Borough Council gave permission for the new office block at Home Farm Munden near Watford, which will be accessed through School Lane in Bricket Wood - a single-track, tree-canopied road and bridleway.

But local residents were oblivious to the application for 1,500 square metres of office space and parking for 35 cars until after it was granted because the council sent letters of notification to the wrong addresses - School Lane in Bushey.

The council attributed the mistake to an administrative error.

Residents of School Lane, Bricket Wood, along with St Stephen Parish Council, were furious not to have been consulted about the scheme which could potentially generate an additional 37 two-way trips at peak times along the normally-peaceful road.

School Lane runs through Bricket Wood Common, a site of triple Special Scientific Interest (SSI), and is enjoyed by walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike. There are also two equestrian stables located along the road.

Herts Highways were consulted on the application and while they agreed the road was unsuitable, they said additional passing bays which would be carved into the common could ease the problem.

But local residents and the parish council believe that the complex should be accessed via the applicant's private driveway which connects his mansion house and estate, where the complex is planned, to Watford.

The parish council approached the Local Government Ombudsman over the issue but could not pursue it because they are prohibited from complaining about a borough council by law.

So a resident of School Lane made the complaint and she has received the findings of the Ombudsman's investigation.

It was decided that she had been caused "injustice" by Hertsmere's administrative error and a recommendation was made for the council to pay her compensation amounting to £250, which they have agreed.

The Ombudsman said the resident had been "deprived" of the opportunity to make her objections known and was therefore left with the uncertainty of not knowing whether they would have affected the outcome of the application.

But the Ombudsman did not find any other fault with the consultation carried out by Hertsmere and found that the alternative access route could not have been considered by them as it was not part of the application.

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