This is another point that comes before the court on a fairly
regular basis and did so recently in the case of Lambert v West
Devon Borough Council (1997). A senior building control officer of
the authority incorrectly advised a member of the public that
certain building works could proceed, even though the relevant
planning application to the same authority was still undetermined.
The problem arose when the works had to be stopped.
A dilemma arises in cases like these for fear of making local
authorities too reluctant to give any assistance to callers if they
might be held liable in negligence later on.
The position that the courts have arrived at in recent years is
that if the advice is given by a person who apparently has
authority to speak for the Council (usually a senior officer) and
that person knows or should have realised that the advice would
reasonably be acted upon, and was acted upon, then liability can
fall on the Council or it can be stopped from taking enforcement
action. The Borough Council was held liable on that basis in this