An investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has uncovered a backlog of 1,500 open enforcement cases at a London borough.
The discovery came after the LGO received a complaint from a man claiming the London Borough of Hackney spent more than five years unsuccessfully trying to get his neighbour to remove an unauthorised extension.
Since the investigation identified the open enforcement cases, the council has allocated two officers to go through all historic open cases to decide what action should be taken. The extension at the heart of the complaint has also been removed.
Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said: ‘The public can only have trust that their local council will protect them and their local environment if those councils act swiftly and appropriately to maintain planning control.
‘People may therefore feel justifiably aggrieved if their local council promises to take direct action against unlawful development, but then lets them down.’
A Hackney Council spokesperson said: ‘The council had already taken action against the unauthorised development prior to receiving the Ombudsman report and will fully meet their recommendations, all of which apart from one were initiated by the council before the Ombudsman reported.’
The ombudsman has warned other planning authorities to keep track of enforcement action and follow through on promises made to act.