An ombudsman has found fault with Stevenage Borough Council's handling of a planning application for a noise barrier in Symonds Green.

Nicholas Anderson, who lives in the area, believes that a fence built in the area has increased road noise for himself and other existing residents, and that reflective noise was not properly considered when SBC approved Taylor Wimpey's Franklin Park development in Todds Green.

Initial plans suggested a nine metre high 'Eco Barrier' would be installed between the new development and the A1(M) to reduce traffic noise, but this was later changed to an eight-metre fence by the developer.

No additional application was required, though a council planning officer had to sign off on discharging the noise condition of the application.

After Mr Anderson brought his complaints to the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman, they asked the council to apologise to Mr Anderson and make him a payment of £300. They also criticised the council's handling of Mr Anderson's complaint.

Mr Anderson had commented on the plans for an 8m high acoustic fence when they were submitted in July 2021, stating that the attached noise survey did not consider the possible reflected noise and the impact on land the other side of the motorway.

Environmental Health (EH) obtained professional advice from an external noise consultant, who recommended that the developer should re-model the site, ensuring that it took account of reflective noise.

Comments provided by EH to the planning department raised concerns about possible noise levels, but did not directly reference reflective noise.

The planning officer overseeing the application noted EH's objection, but did not address the noise concerns. They stated that the principle of a fence had already been accepted, and discharged the noise condition, allowing the fence to go ahead.


The Ombudsman found fault in the way the council had assessed the proposals to mitigate noise, with the planning officer failing to address concerns about reflective noise.

They also found fault with the failure to address Mr Anderson's comments, and to address EH's view that more information was needed.

EH were found at fault too, for failing to pass on details of what additional information was needed.

The Ombudsman added: "There is doubt about whether a different noise mitigating solution may have been required had the fault not occurred.

They concluded there was "injustice" to Mr Anderson, with him being "left with some uncertainty about how much he has been impacted", and "whether the outcome would have been different, and the noise may have been better mitigated, had the fault not occurred".

Mr Anderson received a letter from the CEO of the council, apologising for how his complaint was handled and "with respect to the council’s failure in how it considered the discharge of condition application related to the noise condition".

He said: "The council fully acknowledges that the aforementioned failure will have caused you undue concern about the potential for increase in noise from motorway traffic.

"In acknowledging this failure I wish to assure you that the council has taken steps to ensure that such a situation will not happen again in the future."

They have implemented new procedures between planning and EH, and within their complaints system.

But Mr Anderson is not happy with their response. He told the Comet that "the council still maintain that the noise barrier has not increased road noise in the area, basically calling the residents, liars".

He added that implementing new procedures "is no consolation to all the residents of Symonds Green and Fishers Green who have been left to suffer, in some cases unable to sit in their gardens any longer".

A council spokesperson said that it has "commissioned additional noise impact testing of the barrier at its own expense to better understand the noise existing residents face", pointing residents to a webpage at