Grants in the South East and in particular those made to Sovereign Housing Group/Development Consortium

Roedd y cais yn rhannol lwyddiannus.

Dear Homes and Communities Agency,

I believe that you grant government/public monies to Housing Associations/Registered Social landlords and/or Local Authorities for the development or redevelopment of Social and Affordable Housing.

Please could you supply:-

(1) The total value of grants available in the South East of England for the fiscal years 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12.
(2) The distribution of these grants by local authority, RSL,scheme,and amount, for each of the years above, in Excel spreadsheet format.
(3) A list of all grants applied for, but not granted in the same format as above (ie by year, local authority, RSL, scheme and amount)
(4) A list of all grants pending/under consideration in the same format as above.
(5) The criteria against which grant requests are assessed and in particular:-
(a) Whether alternative options are required (ie refurbish rather than demolish and rebuild)and
(b) Whether a local consultation exercise is required.
(6) Details of who makes the decision.
(7) The length of time a grant application normally takes to process and the timetable for submission & determination.
(8) Details of any communications you have had with Sovereign Housing Group,Sovereign South & West, Sovereign Development Consortium or West Berkshire Council regarding grant applications in Hungerford, West Berkshire.

Many thanks.

Yours faithfully,

J A Giggins

Homes England

ENQUIRY SUBJECT: Freedom of Information request - Grants in the South East and in particular those made to Sovereign Housing Group/Development Consortium

Thank you for your enquiry sent to the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA).

If you are making a request under the Freedom of Information Act, your email has been forwarded to our Information Access Officer who will send you a formal acknowledgement under separate cover. For all other enquiries a second acknowledgement will be sent shortly advising you of our standard response times and your enquiry reference number.

The Enquiries team

www.homesandcommunities.co.uk

By virtue of The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 all assets, liabilities and interests were transferred from Commission for the New Towns and The Urban Regeneration Agency to Homes and Communities Agency with effect from 1st December 2008.

HELP SAVE NATURAL RESOURCES BY CONSIDERING THE ENVIRONMENT BEFORE PRINTING THIS EMAIL

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Catherine West,

1 Atodiad

Dear J A Giggins

Thank you for your recent email, which requested information in pursuance
of the Freedom of Information Act.

Please find attached our acknowledgment of receipt of your request.

Kind regards

Catherine West

Information Access Officer

Homes and Communities Agency

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Catherine West,

3 Atodiad

Dear J A Giggins

Thank you for your recent email, which requested information in pursuance
of the Freedom of Information Act.

We have now had the opportunity to consider your Request for Information,
and our response is attached.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any problems
accessing the information within the attachments, or if you have any
queries or questions on the information being provided to you.

Kind regards

Catherine West

Information Access Officer

Homes and Communities Agency

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Catherine West,

Many thanks for the information you have supplied.

I appreciate that you have tried to be as open and transparent as you feel possible, and the information is very helpful, but has given rise to some further queries/clarification.

My particular interest is in the redevelopment of The Priory/Platt Court Hungerford which is referred to on pages 2 and 17 of the documents you supplied (with redacted information). The documents refer to a 'bid' (project ID 85232) but the bid does not appear on the grants allocated or pending spreadsheets. Can you therefore please clarify the status of the Priory/Platt Court bid.

Also, in question 8 I requested:-

'Details of any communications you have had with Sovereign Housing Group, Sovereign South and West, Sovereign Development Consortium or West Berkshire Council regarding grant applications in Hungerford, West Berkshire.'

You have explained that most communication is made through your Information Management System, but have not provided an extract of the details of the bid from the IMS. Please could this be provided?

I also understand from reading the explanatory notes that the Local Authority (West Berkshire Council) has to complete a form in support of the bid, and I would be grateful if this could also be supplied/extracted from the Information Management System.

Finally, I would like to inform you that the project involves the demolition of 31 one bed general needs flats currently (or recently) occupied by a mixture of long term residents/owners and vulnerable people on short term tenancies. The new buildings will comprise 74 one and two bedroom residential apartments for the over 55's or those requiring extra care (10/01928/FULEXT). Surely therefore the net gain in units is 43 not 74? I shall be writing separately to Mark Thompson who raised this question, (and to your auditors), but am also drawing attention to this matter here as it is relevant to your reasons for non disclosure/redaction of certain information. You say:

"This is not in the public interest, which is best served by ensuring that public authorities are able to inspire the trust and confidence of their partners,and make investment decisions on the basis of complete, accurate and honest information"

It appears to me that the information supplied by Sovereign with regard to the number of units is either inaccurate or dishonest, and if that is the case then surely the other information requested should be made available for public scrutiny?

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Dear Homes and Communities Agency,

I would be grateful if you could instigate a formal internal review of this request in relation to the redacted information.

I would appreciate it if you could address the results of your internal review to J A Giggins via the Whatdotheyknow.com website.

Yours faithfully,

J A Giggins

Homes England

ENQUIRY SUBJECT: Internal review of Freedom of Information request - Grants in the South East and in particular those made to Sovereign Housing Group/Development Consortium

Thank you for your enquiry sent to the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA).

If you are making a request under the Freedom of Information Act, your email has been forwarded to our Information Access Officer who will send you a formal acknowledgement under separate cover. For all other enquiries a second acknowledgement will be sent shortly advising you of our standard response times and your enquiry reference number.

The Enquiries team

www.homesandcommunities.co.uk

By virtue of The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 all assets, liabilities and interests were transferred from Commission for the New Towns and The Urban Regeneration Agency to Homes and Communities Agency with effect from 1st December 2008.

HELP SAVE NATURAL RESOURCES BY CONSIDERING THE ENVIRONMENT BEFORE PRINTING THIS EMAIL

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Catherine West,

Dear Ms Giggins

Thank you for your request that HCA conduct an Internal Review of its
handling of your Request for Information, RFI:5463-10.

I am writing to update you on the progress of that Review.

I can confirm that the matter is being considered by a number of my
colleagues who were not involved in the original Request. They are
currently considering the position with regards to the withheld
information, and we hope to be able to communicate a full response to you
shortly.

Kind regards

Catherine West

Information Access Officer

Homes and Communities Agency

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Catherine West,

Many thanks for your email. Would it be possible to supply a more exact timescale with regards to the HCA's position on provision of the redacted information?

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Catherine West,

Dear Ms Giggins

Thank you for your email. I have spoken with my colleagues who are
coordinating the Internal Review, and they have confirmed that they are
aiming to have a response with you by the end of this week (i.e.
Thursday).

Kind regards

Catherine West
Information Access Officer
Homes and Communities Agency

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Catherine Talbot,

Dear J A Giggins

Internal Review

Thank you for your enquiry dated 18 March 2011, in which you requested an
Internal Review of our handling of your Request for Information,
RFI:5463-10. For clarification, your enquiry was for a review of the
`redacted information' of your Request which related to the following
information:

Details of any communications you have had with Sovereign Housing Group,
Sovereign South and West, Sovereign Development Consortium or West
Berkshire Council regarding grant applications in Hungerford, West
Berkshire.

We apologise for the time it has taken to communicate our response to you.
HCA takes its information access obligations very seriously, including the
process of considering Internal Reviews. As such, we endeavour to ensure
that Internal Reviews are heard by a panel of senior staff who were not
involved in the original request, but as a result it may take us some time
to reach a decision.

We wrote to you on 6 December 2010 to communicate our response to your
Request for Information. Our response confirmed that the correspondence
requested was being released to you in full save for Sovereign Housing's
acquisition costs. We advised you that this information was exempt from
disclosure in accordance with Section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information
Act.

The purpose of the Internal Review was, therefore, to determine whether we
were correct to withhold the acquisition costs and applied the correct
exemption in doing so.

After through consideration of the information requested and the reasons
for non-disclosure previously presented, we have concluded that our
original decision to withhold the information was correct, for the reasons
detailed below.

Section 43(2): Commercial Interests

Our letter of 6 December 2010 advised that the acquisition costs were
exempt from disclosure in accordance with Section 43(2), which permits a
public authority to withhold information where disclosure "would, or would
be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any party", including
the public authority holding the information.

The Internal Review reconsidered the application of this exemption, and
concluded that the original response was correct. Disclosure of
acquisition costs would be likely to adversely prejudice the commercial
interests of HCA and Sovereign Housing for the following reasons.

Prejudicial to HCA

o Our relationship with Sovereign Housing would be negatively affected
o Other partner organisations would be discouraged from sharing
information with HCA in the future

Prejudicial to Sovereign Housing

o Release of acquisition costs would compromise the commercial interests
of Sovereign Housing

We are therefore satisfied that the exemption at Section 43(2) of the Act
is engaged and was correctly applied to the information in question.

The Public Interest

Section 43(2) is a "qualified" exemption, which means we must consider the
public interest in the disclosure of the information prior to reaching a
decision to withhold. We can confirm that in addition to the public
interest test conducted at the time of your original request, we have
again revisited the factors both for and against disclosure, in view of
the passage of time since your original request was received.

For Disclosure

o Disclosure would help to demonstrate HCA's commitment to the
principles of accountability and transparency
o Disclosure would help empower interested individuals to analyse and
question the activities of HCA.

Against Disclosure

o Withholding commercially sensitive information such as the acquisition
costs in this case gives partner organisations confidence in HCA to
enable them to be open and honest regarding the information that they
provide. HCA is able to make investment decisions based on an
accurate picture as a result.

o Sovereign's interests in the market are protected whilst maintaining a
relationship with HCA to deliver current and future projects.

We can therefore advise that the Internal Review completed by the HCA has
concurred with the original decision, as communicated to you in our letter
of 6 December 2010, and that we are at this time unable to release this
additional information to you. We would, however, stress that the public
interest factors which have influenced our decision are continually
changing, and that although we are unable to release this information to
you at this time, we may be able to reconsider this position in the
future.

If you are not content with the outcome of this Internal Review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at

Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely

Catherine Talbot

Solicitor

Homes and Communities Agency

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Catherine Talbot,

Thankyou for your response setting out the outcome of the Homes & Communities Agency internal review of the amount of LAND acquisition costs redacted from the email from Marc Thompson of the HCA to Lorraine Randall of Sovereign.

The actual question read:

(a)Why is there an acquisition price of £ if this is Sovereign owned land?

The answer was:

(a) Sovereign don't own all the LAND (my emphasis)in question therefore there are some associated acquisition costs.

The fact that a piece of LAND has been or is in the process of being acquired for this development is a matter that has not been open to public scrutiny. There was no indication on the planning application 10/01928/FULEXT that Sovereign did not own the full site, and the questions that I raised during the planning process about a portion of the Triangle Field (local amenity space housing Hungerford Rugby Club)that seemed to have been transferred to the Priory Site (Sovereign) from West Berkshire Council went unanswered. Regardless of the HCA's, Sovereign Housing's or West Berkshire Council's 'commercial interests' I think it is very much in the public interest that we know when public land is being divested, and so I shall be taking this FOI request to the Commissioner.

I am aware from other sources that Sovereign have other 'acquisition' costs relating to this site, primarily the costs of 'buying back' the leases that had been acquired under the 'right to buy' scheme. I am also aware that Sovereign may have used the fact that negotiations are still in progress with regard to these properties to argue that their 'commercial interests' would be compromised if the acquisition cost figure was disclosed. I have two points to make to counter this argument:

(1) The figure is said to relate to LAND (not leasehold buildings)
(3) If the figure includes leasehold interests as well as land the figure is an aggregate.

Once again it appears that Sovereign have supplied the HCA with incorrect/misleading/dishonest information, a matter which I shall raise with your internal and external auditors.

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Catherine Talbot,

I am out of the office on annual leave until 3 May with no access to
emails. I shall respond to your email on my return.

If the matter is urgent please contact Margaret Connolly on 0207 8748283.

If you wish to make a request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations, please forward
your enquiry to [Homes and Communities Agency request email]. Please note that your
email will not be automatically forwarded.

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Catherine Talbot,

For further clarification, please access the two links below:

http://publicaccess.westberks.gov.uk/Pub...

http://planning.westberks.gov.uk/rpp/sho...

The first link is a Public Access enquiry that gives a pictorial representation of the land in question. (It is the darker pink/red shaded area in the bottom right hand quarter of the map) If this area is clicked on it provides links to planning applications for the Triangle Field AND the Priory/Platt Court application 10/01928/FULEXT, but not to the preceding Sovereign Housing application (09/02037/FUL) for the demolition of the garages adjacent to the Priory/Platt Court.

The second link is to an overlay plan of the footprint of the proposed new three and four storey buildings over the footprint of the existing two storey buildings. From memory the footprint of the new buildings extends into this piece of amenity land that appears to have been transferred from West Berkshire Council to Sovereign Housing. I say "from memory" because the plan no longer appears on West Berkshire's Planning Portal, although I have today asked for it to be reinstated.

I appreciate that you have already completed your internal review of my request, but wonder whether you would like to reconsider your refusal to supply the information in light of the further clarification I have provided?

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Catherine Talbot,

Dear Ms Giggins

Thank you for your email. I shall look into this and respond as soon as
I am able.

Regards

Catherine Talbot

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Catherine Talbot,

I'm not quite sure what the timescale is for your response, as it's a request for a review of an internal review based on the provision of further information to you, rather than from you! However I think it's now been 20 days since I made the request.

Have you been able to look into the matters I have raised to see if they affect the HCA's decision?

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Catherine Talbot,

I am out of the office on Friday 20 May with limited access to emails. I
am on annual leave from 23 - 30 May. I shall respond to your email on my
return.

If the matter is urgent please contact Margaret Connolly on 0207 8748283.

If you wish to make a request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act or Environmental Information Regulations, please forward
your enquiry to [Homes and Communities Agency request email]. Please note that your
email will not be automatically forwarded.

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Catherine West,

Dear Ms Giggins

Thank you for your email, addressed to my colleague, Catherine Talbot.

I can confirm that Catherine's response to your query was set out in our
letter of 20 May 2011, which communicated the findings of our Internal
Review RFI:3815-11.

I can confirm that this letter advised:

"In addition to the above I make reference to your email dated 05/05/11 in
which you provided additional information in relation to your request
referenced RFI 5463-10. You acknowledged that we had already completed our
Internal Review and communicated our response to you, however you asked if
we would reconsider your request in light of the further clarification
provided. The Review team looked at the information you provided and
determined that this did not alter our original decision to apply S43(2)
nor did it affect the balance of the public interest test which was
communicated to you in our response dated 20 April 2011."

Should you remain dissatisfied, you have the right to contact the
Information Commissioner's Office, whose details were outlined in our
previous correspondence.

Kind regards

Catherine West

Information Access Officer

Homes and Communities Agency

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir