Upheld in whole or in part
Brecon Beacons National Park Authority
In 2019 Mr N complained to the Ombudsman about the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority’s (“the NPA”) delay in its response to his complaint, which had taken almost 3½ years to determine, and the actions taken by the NPA to implement the recommendations contained in the Monitoring Officer’s report of the investigation of the complaint. These included carrying out work to resurface a track and move/replace a cattle grid, as well as fencing on common land (which required the consent of the Welsh Government). The Ombudsman upheld Mr N’s complaint, and in the resulting report of 16 September 2019 made a number of recommendations intended to ensure that the actions were completed “as soon as reasonably practicable”, which the NPA agreed to implement.
In September 2021 Mr N complained to the Ombudsman again about the lack of progress. The complaint was settled on the basis of the NPA agreeing to complete the work on the track and cattle grid by the end of March 2022, and to complete the fencing within 3 months of the Welsh Government’s consent for the work. By the end of October 2022, although work had been carried out, it had not been completed, and the application to the Welsh Government had “timed out” and needed to be re-submitted.
Being dissatisfied that the NPA had not complied with the recommendations of the 2019 report or the terms of the settlement, the Ombudsman invoked her powers under section 28 to issue a Special Report. Although the Ombudsman understood that the NPA had at times found itself in a difficult position, the situation had been allowed to drift for far too long and it was wholly unacceptable that the matter had not been concluded. She recommended that the NPA, within 1 month:
a) Issues a written apology to Mr N from the Chief Executive for the way in which the NPA has handled this matter.
b) Pays Mr N the sum of £1000 in recognition of the time and trouble to which he has been put in pursuing his complaint.
The Ombudsman also recommended that the NPA:
c) Expedites as a matter of urgency the works included in the tender (the construction of the track and the re-siting of the cattle grid). Such works should be completed as soon as possible, and, at the latest, by the end of March 2023.
d) Does everything within its power to expedite the determination by the Welsh Government of the common land consent application; the fencing should be completed within 3 months of the Welsh Government granting consent for the work.
e) Formally reports this report to the next meeting of the Audit & Governance Committee of the NPA. Thereafter, the matter should be a standing item on the agenda of that Committee until the Committee is satisfied that the work has been completed, whereupon the NPA should confirm to me that it has been and provide appropriate documentary/photographic evidence of this.
f) Within 4 months of the issue of the report, undertakes a review of its handling of Mr N’s complaint and its subsequent actions to identify lessons which can be learned, with a view to ensuring that such errors and delays do not re-occur in future. It should ensure that there is sufficient oversight to ensure any future recommendations made are complied with.
The NPA agreed to implement the recommendations.