R v Parliamentary Commissioner for administration, ex p. Balchin [1996] 10 WLUK 435; [1998] 1 P.L.R. 1

Key point

  • Where the decision-maker has failed to consider a relevant consideration, the decision may be struck down where the decision maker might have reached a different conclusion if he had taken account of it


  • The applicants’ (Mr and Mrs Balchin’s) property had greatly depreciated in value after the local council decided to build a bypass over it
  • The Transport Secretary confirmed the Road Orders of the Norfolk County Council to build the bypass
  • The applicants complained to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (the Parliamentary Ombudsman) that the Transport Secretary was guilty of maladministration in confirming Road Orders without seeking an assurance from Norfolk CC that the applicants would be given adequate compensation for the effect of the road on their home
  • Their complaint was refused by the Parliamentary Ombudsman
  • The applicants sought the quashing of the adverse decision of Ombudsman
  • Under s.246(2A) Highways Act 1980, Norfolk CC could have offered to purchase adjacent property negatively affected in value, including the applicants’ property

Held (High Court, QBD)

  • Appeal allowed; the decision of the Parliamentary Ombudsman is quashed
  • The failure of the Parliamentary Ombudsman to take into account a relevant fact – the negative attitude of Norfolk CC to providing compensation under s.246(2A) Highways Act 1980 – was decisive to its decision

Sedley J

  • ‘My decision is limited to holding that in declining to consider the ostensible propriety of Norfolk County Council’s negative attitude to its compensatory powers [under s.246(2A) Highways Act 1980] and its amenability to correction by the Department, the Commissioner omitted a potentially decisive element from his consideration of whether the Department of Transport had caused injustice to the Balchins by maladministration in its dealings with the county council.’