Graeme Bickerdike

Dear Sir/Madam

In relation to structure CFH1/12 Rudgate [Road] bridge, part of the Historical Railways Estate, please provide copies of the following documents -

* the most recent detailed examination report
* visual inspection reports for 2017-2021
* the most recent structural assessment
* completion reports for any repairs carried out since 2010
* detailed design drawings for the 2021 infill scheme.

Yours faithfully

Graeme Bickerdike

foi@highwaysengland.co.uk,

 

Dear Graeme Bickerdike

Thank you for your request relating to Rudgate bridge dated 23 May 2022. 

The due date for issuing a response is 21 June 2022.

Please feel free to contact our team if you have any queries quoting
FOI/3681 in any future communications

 

Kind regards

Amanda Speight 

Freedom of Information Officer 

 

You can make new FOI requests and review published responses by
visiting [1]https://foiform.highwaysengland.co.uk/

References

Visible links
1. https://foiform.highwaysengland.co.uk/

foi@highwaysengland.co.uk,

 

Dear Mr Bickerdike

Thank you for your request which we received on 23/05/2022.

We have dealt with your request under the provisions of the Environmental
Information Regulations (EIRs)

Your Request

In relation to structure CFH1/12 Rudgate [Road] bridge, part of the
Historical Railways Estate, please provide copies of the following
documents -
* the most recent detailed examination report
* visual inspection reports for 2017-2021
* the most recent structural assessment
* completion reports for any repairs carried out since 2010
* detailed design drawings for the 2021 infill scheme.

Information Held

I can confirm that we hold information which falls within the scope of
your request

Request Refused

Your request has been refused under EIR 12(4)(b) which provides an
exception for requests which are considered to be “manifestly
unreasonable”. In this case this is on the grounds that the request is
vexatious.

This refusal will also be applied to subsequent requests you make for
similar information:

This includes any requests for information related to National Highways
decisions and plans regarding the infilling or demolition of structures
(bridges or tunnels) within our Historical Rail Estate (HRE).

Advice and Assistance

We consider that your ongoing requests for information on in this area are
driven by a personal grudge. 

We also consider that the public interest in the information you
request is not proportionate to the burden and distress caused by the
volume and frequency of your requests for information in this subject
area.

 

If you are unhappy with the way we have handled your request you may ask
for an

internal review within 2 months of the date of this response for Freedom
of Information

requests and within 40 days for Environmental Information Regulations
requests.

Our internal review process is available at:
[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

 

If you require a print copy, please phone the Information Line on 0300 123
5000; or email [2][email address].

 

You should contact me if you wish to complain.

 

If you are not content with the outcome of the 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

 

Louisa Gosling

FOI Compliance 

 

 

References

Visible links
1. https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...
2. mailto:[email address]

Dear Sir/Madam

Under Regulation 11 of the EIR, I am seeking an internal review of your refusal to provide the information I requested on 23 May 2022 about Rudgate bridge, reference FOI/3681. You assert that this request was “manifestly unreasonable” and “vexatious”.

On behalf of The HRE Group, I have made 26 FoI/EIR requests over 20 months. This figure excludes the two-monthly requests made on behalf of the Queensbury Tunnel Society which, since 2021, have yielded little/no substantive information due to your apparent failure to keep records of that project. Generally, we do not regard the nature of our requests to be onerous - they mostly seek a modest number of documents about individual structures which fall outside National Highways’ stated intention of proactively publishing assessment reports.

National Highways (or Highways England/Highways Agency) has never given me “privileged access to inspect our files on premises”, but I did review BRB (Residuary)’s archive of Queensbury Tunnel records in York on 14 February 2013, seven months prior to the Estate’s transfer to the Highways Agency.

You assert that I have “a personal grudge” and demonstrate an “intransient, seemingly obsessive, suspicion of the intentions, motives and competence of our HRE Team”.

I am the appointed representative of ten people - collectively comprising The HRE Group - upon whose instructions I act. These people have considerable experience in the fields of civil engineering, heritage railways, active travel and the development of greenways, and are supported by many other specialists who share our concern about National Highways’ management of the Historical Railways Estate (HRE).

Generally speaking, the Group’s members - and other close allies - believe that National Highways (NH) has misused permitted development (emergency) powers to progress some infill schemes, has shown questionable competence in determining the need for infilling specific structures, chooses infilling as its preferred approach to managing specific structures despite more appropriate and better-value options being available, often makes statements that are demonstrably untrue and has failed to recognise the importance of the HRE in terms of future sustainable transport provision, as well as from historical and ecological perspectives. These views are partly informed by the available documentary evidence, access to some of which you are now seeking to deny us through a blanket refusal to consider any future FoI/EIR requests. We regard this action as disproportionate and not in the public interest.

It should be noted that the Government paused your infilling and demolition programme for ten months as a result of the concerns expressed through our campaign, supported by more than 19,400 signatories to an online petition. This pause would not have been imposed if our concerns were regarded as unjustified.

The HRE Group is entitled to hold and express the views outlined above; National Highways’ obligation to provide information under FoI/EIR is not contingent on us changing our views or working collaboratively with NH. However we believe our engagement with the Stakeholder Advisory Forum has been constructive and positive, whilst maintaining a willingness to challenge National Highways where we consider it appropriate.

You assert that I have “misrepresented” information obtained under FoI/EIR and subjected NH/HRE to “unjustified criticism” and “unsubstantiated claims”.

Others can judge whether my criticism of NH/HRE is justified or not. The interpretation and presentation of evidence inevitably involves some level of subjective judgement and it is perhaps unsurprising that mine often differs to National Highways’. But again, this does not constitute grounds for refusing all future FoI/EIR requests.

I reject the accusation that I misrepresent any information or make unsubstantiated claims. The articles I write - whilst often robust - are always based on careful and reasonable consideration of the available evidence and through insight gained from respected specialists in their field or other relevant parties.

I look forward to receiving the outcome of your internal review.

Yours faithfully

Graeme Bickerdike

foi@highwaysengland.co.uk,

1 Atodiad

 

Dear Graeme Bickerdike
 
Response: Internal Review in relation to request FOI/3681
 
 
Further to your e-mail, which was received on 7 June 2022 I have been
asked to undertake a review of the response to your request for
information under the Environmental Information Regulations
2004 (FOI/3681).
 

You were dissatisfied with the response to your request because it was
refused as vexatious under Regulation 12(4)(b) of the Environmental
Information Regulations 2004.

 

How I have reviewed your request:

My investigations have included collection and review of documentary
evidence, interviews and discussions with effected staff,  scrutiny of ICO
Guidance and Decisions regarding vexatious requests, as well as analysis
of relevant case-law from the Information Tribunal.    

My report (attached) includes my considerations, my reasoning and my
findings. 

 

“Similar requests” covered by the refusal  

This refusal will cover any requests you make for records we hold
concerning actions already taken by our Historical Railways Estate Team
(HRET) about HRE structures, and concerning past decisions made in this
area. It is the 47 requests you have made over the past 3 years, not an
individual one, which I consider to be vexatious.  The “similarity” of
these requests lies in the singular intent to find fault with the work of
HRET. 

Your requests have been linked, not by the particular subject matter of
information requested, nor by any consistent or coherent public interest
you claim to represent, but by a singular determination to “expose”
wrongdoing, and to raise public concern about the competence, motives and
intentions of HRET; and to hold them, exclusively  responsible for impacts
of major works they commission, on any of the diverse and competing
interests in it. 

Aside from this drive, your interrogation of our records over the past 3
years does not demonstrate any serious purpose or coherence with regard to
the content of information sought.  Rather the information you seek
appears to shift haphazardly as you take different tacks to criticise and
undermine our work.  I would characterise your requests as endless
fishing to find anything which could be used to support an apparent
fixation with blaming HRET for wrongdoing.  

The burden I have considered is the sum and cumulative weight of the
string of these requests on HRET over three years.  It concerns the
diversion and depletion of their staff resources, and the increasing
distress and frustration by the staff involved with processing your
requests.  

I find this heavy burden to be unjustified; It has become clear that its
negative impact on the work of this public authority is disproportionate
to any serious purpose or value I can find in your requests, or in the use
you put them to.  

My reasoning, and the considerations I have made in my review (in
accordance with both ICO guidance and case law), has been laid out in the
attached document.   

 

Conclusion

The conclusion of the internal review is to uphold National Highways (NH)
decision to refuse this, and further requests from you for similar
information, on the grounds that they are vexatious.   

I would like to be clear that it is the requests you have made, and not
you yourself, which I have been found to be vexatious. 

Accordingly, this finding does not affect your membership of, and
participation in, the SAF.  You will therefore still have access to
information shared with you, and discussed, in that context.  I understand
that the SAF represents a new, and forward looking, mechanism for improved
decision making about HRE structures that require major work.  It is
working towards better, more balanced and reasonable outcomes, for the
range of interests and stakeholders which you have voiced concern about.  

In addition to the SAF, NH has also worked hard to make its work on the
HRE more transparent and is using the NH website to publish information
and resources for all of the public to
see [1]https://nationalhighways.co.uk/our-work/...

We invite you to accept this decision to refuse to process further
requests for records on the grounds or basis for our past decisions.  It
is unreasonable to keep asking us, endlessly, to dig out records from the
past to support unfounded suspicions about the motives, intent and
competence of our staff.  I am hoping you might agree that your time would
be better applied to your participation in the SAF, and its work to make a
difference to what happens now and in the future. 

 

If you remain unhappy with the outcome of your internal review, you are
entitled to refer your complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office
(ICO) for a decision.

 

The ICO can be contacted at [2]https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/ or via
the address below -

 

Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF 

[3]http://www.ico.org.uk

 

Kind Regards

Louisa Gosling 

FOI / EIR Advisor 

References

Visible links
1. https://nationalhighways.co.uk/our-work/...
2. https://ico.org.uk/make-a-complaint/
3. http://www.ico.org.uk/