Cost of contamination remediation - proposed school on toxic waste dump

Sheila Oliver made this Freedom of Information request to Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

Waiting for an internal review by Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council of their handling of this request.

Sheila Oliver

Dear Stockport Borough Council,

What is the proposed cost of dealing with the contamination remediation at the still gassing, former toxic waste dump at Harcourt Street and please may I have a breakdown of these costs? This is a current issue, it is not vexatious. The extra costs need to be brought into the public domain, as the school is aready being financed by circa £5 million of unsupported borrowing. If the school is to be started imminently, those costs should have been considered.

Yours faithfully,

Sheila Oliver

FOI Officer, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mrs Oliver,

I am writing in response to your request for information below (ref 2969).

As you have previously been informed, all your requests for information
about Harcourt Street are considered to be vexatious under section 14(1)
Freedom of Information Act 2000 and manifestly unreasonable under
Regulation 12(4)(b) Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and will
not receive a response. This decision has previously been through the
Council's internal review process and was upheld.

You are entitled to complain to the Information Commissioner's Office. To
do so, contact:

Information Commissioner's Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane




01625 545 745

Yours sincerely,

Claire Naven

Claire Naven

Data Protection & Freedom of Information Officer

Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council

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Sheila Oliver

Dear Stockport Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Stockport Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Cost of contamination remediation - proposed school on toxic waste dump'.

There are financial irregularities in this case involving millions of pounds. It is my money - I am perfectly entitled to ask.

Please see below:-

What Do They Know website – Financial Questions being refused by Stockport Council
(I presume they will refuse this one too)
(I presume they will refuse this)
(I presume they will refuse this one as well)


1. 21st JANUARY 2005 – Request for m2 cost for single storey building including additional foundations. Cost based on floor area of 2600m2. Subsequently updated to 3006m2.

2. 30th AUGUST 2005 – Report to Executive Committee re proposed school. Estimated cost £5.5 million. £2.2 million grant from Dept for Education and Skills. Fir Tree site to be sold for £1.2 million, £0.6 to come from the sales of North Reddish schools, £1.8 million to be met initially through prudential borrowing till vacated sites sold.

3. Copy of proposal for the amalgamated school, children’s centre and nursery showing overall costs expected to be £5.5 million.

4. 5th OCTOBER 2005 – Site notice to close schools quotes cost of proposed school as being £5.5 million, 45% to come from DfES grants and the balance from the Council’s capital programme.

5. 12th DECEMBER 2005 – Cost now £7,502,755 as per NPS document. Total school area now 3443m2.

6. 30th DECEMBER 2005 PROJECT INITIATION DOCUMENT - stated Project Initiation Document and brief received with constraints and budget fixed in the item 2, 3 and 4 at £5,798,649 on 30th December 2005, but we see from the NPS document that as of 12th December 2005 the building work total was £7,502.755 i.e., the scheme at its outset was £1,704,106 overbudget. Was admitted to be a risky venture but there was no Plan B.

7. Executive Meeting 20th February 2006 – Unsupported Capital Expenditure – To support a new school in Reddish to replace two existing schools until the sale of the surplus sites is realized.

8. 20TH FEBRUARY 2006 –Minutes of meeting obtained from NPS stating cost is now £7.5 - £8.0 million stating available funding £5.8 million plus possibly an additional £600,000 from Children’s Centre but not definite.

9. HIGHLIGHT REPORT 15/05/06 – 27/07/06 - overall projected costs £8.20million. Available funding £5.80million. Financial risk put at red. There was a £2,400.000 shortfall

10. 30th NOVEMBER 2006 - letter from Donna Sagar giving proposed funding sources. No mention of financial shortfall.

11. 21st March 2007 - email from the FOI Officer stating there would be an internal review of the Council’s decision to let me see no documents on this issue. I had previously received a letter from the Director of Children and Young People’s Directorate, Andrew Webb, stating it would take 84 hours of officer time at £25 per hour to read and redact the files and £300 photocopying costs. I wanted no photocopies – just to read the files. I knew he was not telling the truth because I had already seen all the files a few months before and just wanted to re-read them and see any new information. There were a handful of folders, which could not possibly equate to 84 hours of council officer’s time.

12. 30TH MARCH 2007 – Agenda document point 8. states “obvious concern over funding. DS (Donna Sager) to look at possible other funding sources.” Point 10. asks for advice on how much of the information in the agenda document goes into the highlight report for the May’s project board meeting. Point 7. states that the temporary classroom has had to be removed to make way for the Sport England stipulations.

13. 21st June 2007 Email from Chris Woolard – stating cost was now in the region of £8.5 million

14. 20th July 2007 – Email from me to the FOI Officer – asking for clarification of funding before the matter was put before the planning committee.

15. July 2007 - Email from me to the Executive Councillor, Councillor Weldon – asking about the funding before the matter went before the planning committee at the end of July 2007.

16. 26th July 2007 – Email from me to the Finance Executive Councillor – asking about the rising costs of the scheme from £5.2 million when the scheme was announced in the press and the current £8.5 million cost at this time. This represented a rise of £3.3 million in 21 months.

17. 31st July 2007 – Having forced the Council to allow me to see documents under the FOI by humiliating the LibDems at Westminster, they finally allowed me to see some documents, having initially claimed they would take 84 hours to read and redact. I went into work early at 7.30 am, so I could be at the Council premises by 2.30 to read them. I left out of consideration to the Reception staff at 16.50. The Council refused to let me see those documents again saying I had already seen them. How could they expect me to read in a couple of hours what they had claimed would take 84 hours to read and redact?

18. 22nd August 2007 – FOI response regarding the rising costs – no mention of the funding difficulties.

19. 15th September 2007 – Email from me to the FOI Officer – explaining why the £8.5 million cost of the proposed school is circa £3 million too high according to Government figures.

20. 13th SEPTEMBER 2007 – Email from FOI Officer regarding internal review of their refusal to disclose more detailed summary of costs.

21. 21st SEPTEMBER 2007 - Email from FOI Officer stating internal floor area of building is 3184m2.

22. 11th October 2007 – Email regarding the latest breakdown of costs

23. 6th November 2007 – Email from the FOI Officer stating they have not investigated the costs of putting the proposed school on the Fir Tree site

24. 6th November 2007 – Email from me pointing out that: “An item in the accounts breaks the law if, for example, it records spending or income that…..was spent on something that the council has power to spend money on, but which was so unreasonably high that it was unlawful” according to the District Auditor

25. 8th November 2007 – Email from FOI Officer stating the costs of expert monitoring of the venting of landfill gases into the school site for the 25 year life of the proposed school are at that stage unquantifiable

26. 9th November 2007 – Email from FOI Officer stating that the costs of the contamination remediation are at that stage unquantifiable

27. 14th November 2007 – Email from the FOI Officer saying the Council has not considered the potential cost of vandalism at this proposed site, which unlike most school sites is completely hidden from public view and any criminal activity on the site would go unnoticed.

28. 21ST NOVEMBER 2007 – copy of risk register showing high risk of further expense regarding drainage and contamination.

29. Document from Executive Meeting in 2008 stating that the sale of redundant school land sites may not realise the sums they thought. They are refusing to let me see background documents regarding this.

30. 10th March 2008 – Report to Executive Meeting - identifying estimated costs of the scheme and the funding streams. At (v) it gives the increased floor area from 2600m2 to 3185m2. At 3.2 Benchmarking it gives the figure of £1450/m2 as the figure they have adopted within the cost plan. So, that is an extra 585m2 x £1450 = £848,250 yet they have given the cost of that as £1,050,000. My attempts over a two year period to point out that apparent arithmetical error have met with a stonewall of silence and claims that I am being vexatious. That is over a quarter of a million pounds! The cost of the scheme in this document is now £9,930,000. This is another £1,430,000 since the previous estimate in September 2007 – 6 months previously. Please remember at this time no contamination had been admitted to, although the Council knew this to be a contaminated site. I knew this was a contaminated site and that these costs would push up the price exponentially.

31. 15th April to 15th May 2008 – Highlight Report of the Project Board – Available funding £9.94 million – projected overall costs £9.94 million. From which source has the full funding now materialized?

32. June 2008 Financial Procedures Rules – 1.4 “All staff within the Authority are required to maintain and promote the highest standards of financial management, integrity and administration in line with these Financial Procedure Rules, Accounting Standards and Codes of Practice.”

33. Email from the FOI Officer in response to the point above – “£3,778,000 will come from the sale of the Edgeley Centre and Taxal Lodge. £484,000 from the sale of Bruntwood Primary School will be put towards the project….it is therefore anticipated that the proceeds of future sales of education sites…will make up the shortfall.” This amounts to £4,262,000 towards the cost of the proposed school.

34. 5th October 2008 – email from me to the FOI Officer pointing out that in the Executive Meeting minutes of 18th August 2008 the Strategic Capital Group has considered the issue of the sale of redundant school land not realizing the expected sums due to the economic downturn and building/mortgage crisis.

35. 10th November 2008 – Report to the Executive Meeting – Capital Programme Report – “The “credit crunch” is having an impact on achieving the planned level of capital receipts necessary to support the programme, and it is likely that the economic position will continue to have an adverse impact (sic) the lifetime of this programme.”

The Strategic Capital Group will review all projects being supported by capital receipts and will report back to the Executive Councillor Finance with a plan to balance the funding position.”

36. 9th December 2008 – Question put by me to the Audit Committee about the funding of the proposed school – they declined to answer.

37. 17TH DECEMBER 2008 – Copy of letter sent to Cllr Millard, Chair of the Audit Committee following my public question at the Audit Committee meeting. No response yet received.

38. January 6th 2010 – Proof of Evidence by Donna Sager, Project Manager, given to a public inquiry regarding the diversion of a footpath.
7.2 … the lowest tender of the scheme is £7,731,569 (inexplicably down from £9,940,000). There is funding available of £768,431 to meet any future contingencies, or any additional requirements for land remediation. 7.3 It involves a capital expenditure of £8.5 million. Supported borrowing - £4,036,497, Grants £2,744,430.

Capital receipts amount to £1,676,000 and not the £6.690,000 previously stated. This anomaly of circa £5 million from what was being told to the Executive Committee and to me.

39. 11th December 2009 – Annual Audit letter – Closing remarks “The economic downturn , public sector funding and the banking crisis are having a very significant impact on public finances and the bodies that manage them. It is envisaged that there will be wide ranging and more fundamental impacts on the ability of the public sector bodies to fund service delivery and capital programmes in the short to medium term, including pressure on income streams.”

40. Capital Programme 2008/09 – 2010/11 – Children and Young People’s Directorate is having to take £486,000 from another Council budget to balance its books

41. January 6th 2010 – Evidence stating the entire site is contaminated put before a diversion of public footpath inquiry.

The size of the school was initially to be 2600m2, then it increased to 3006m2, then it increased to 3443m2 . In the FOI response dated 21st September 2007 the size is now 3184m2 . In the report to the Executive 10th March 2008. the reason for the increase in cost by almost £5 million was amongst other things increased floor area. Yet we see from Point 5 above on the 12th DECEMBER 2005 – Cost was £7,502,755 as per NPS document. Total school area was put at 3443m2, so the area of the school has gone down 361m2 at £1450 per m2, which amounts to another apparent financial anomaly of £523,450.

If the school were to be built on the Fir Tree site there would have been no contamination costs, no extra drainage costs, no traffic regulation order costs, no CPO costs, no village green costs, no need to lay on sewage, water, electric, telephone, no need for the £600,000 costs to appease Sport England, no need for outreach costs to deprived members of the community following the loss of vital community school and community buildings as mentioned in the Fir Tree Governors minutes and no compensation costs. They are only getting £1.2 million for the Fir Tree site. I assume this has now been substantially reduced. None of the above makes any financial sense and in my opinion I am perfectly within my rights to question senior council officers and Executive Councillors regarding these irregularities. The Executive Councillors have used my apparent verdict of vexatiousness from the Information Commission to not only ban all FOI questions but all council meeting questions on the subject as well.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:

Yours faithfully,

Sheila Oliver

Sheila Oliver (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

In the light of this story:-

whereby parents promised a nursery to replace the much loved superb nursery on a safe site they now have are now being palmed off with just a nursery class (for 50?????), my assertion all along that the new amalgamated school at Harcourt Street was not big enough for its intended purpose would appear to be correct. Why else is the Council removing the rest of the nursery provision and what is the space being used for?

To say that my questions on this subject have been vexatious as Councillors Weldon, Goddard, Derbyshire and council officers Re, Webb, Boylan and Sager have claimed and their refusal to respond would appear to have been an attempt to cover the fact up that this school all along was not big enough for the children who needed to attend. Why was the project gone ahead with in the first place if this is the case?

Sheila Oliver (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Is my local MP Andrew Stunell having a laugh here? I repeatedly
asked him to make Stockport Council reply to questions, which they
have avoided for about four years:-

I shall ask him again for help and post his response, or lack of
it, on this site.

Have a look at this frightening You Tube clip of the brown asbestos
"experts" languidly and unscienficially removing brown asbestos
from the school site:-


Sheila Oliver (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

I don't think that Andrew Stunell link worked. Try this:-

Sheila Oliver (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

This is the text from the Information Commission stating you should be answering questions:-


Information Commissioner's Office
Promoting public access to official information and protecting your personal information
15th February 2010
Case Reference Number RCC0296506 / FS50232537 Stockport Borough Council
Dear Mrs Oliver
Thank you for your letter of 7 February 2010. In your letter you state that since the issuing of the Decision Notice in relation to case FS50232537 on 10 November 2009 further evidence has come to light which you feel no proves you are not vexatious. You also state that since the Decision Notice was issued all your subsequent requests for information made to the Council have been refused on the basis that the requests are vexatious.
The Decision Notice found that at the time of your request, which was 1 December 2008, your request was manifestly unreasonable and therefore Stockport Borough Council were correct to refuse to disclose to you the information you requested by virtue of 12(4)(b) of the Environmental Information Regulations. All Decision Notice must consider the circumstances at the time the request was made and cannot take into account circumstances that post date the request. If you are unhappy with the findings of the Decision Notice you should appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights). Any appeal should be lodged with the Tribunal within 28 days of the date of the Decision Notice. The contact details for the Tribunal are found at the bottom of the Decision Notice.
In relation to your second point, that the Council are now refusing all your requests for information on the basis that they are vexatious, the Decision Notice relates specifically to the request you made on the 1 December 2008 and does not make any finding regarding future requests. If you have made further requests and these have been refused you should ask the Council to review the requests and if following this review you remain unhappy with their response you can bring a new complaint to the Commissioner.
Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF t:0845 630 6060 f:01625 524510