Environmental Impact Assessment Screening Opinion and associated documentation

J A Giggins made this Freedom of Information request to West Berkshire Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear West Berkshire Council,

I would be grateful if you could provide:

(1) A copy of, or link to, a signed copy of the Environmental Impact Screening Opinion for application number 10/01928/FULEXT - Demolition and redevelopment of the Priory/Platt Court.

(2) A copy of the letter from Davina Bowe of Barton Willmore dated 27th July referred to in the unsigned copy of the screening opinion published on the planning portal:

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

(3) Any other correspondence to/from WBC from any source (applicant/agents/consultees/objectors etc)relating to the requirement or not for an Environmental Impact Assessment Assessment and/or screening opinion.

(4) The information 'considered' by Mr Rayner to support his assessment that the proposed development is

(a) modest
(b) on brownfield land
(c) within the settlement boundary,

given that the application was presented to committee as a major application, that the applicants acknowledged in their D&A statement that following changes to PPS3 the garden/grounds of the existing buildings could no longer be classified as brownfield, and that the proposed buildings straddle the settlement boundary.

Many thanks.

Yours faithfully,

J A Giggins

Sue Broughton, West Berkshire Council

1 Attachment

FoI/2011/532

Dear Mrs Giggins,

Request for Information: The Priory and Platt Court, application
10/01928/FULEXT

Thank you for your email. In his letter of 14th June 2011, and in
respect of the 236 emails concerning the matters surrounding the
planning application 10/01928/FULEXT sent by you to this authority over
the period June 2010-June 2011, Mr Carter advised you:

"My conclusion is that your requests and demands on the Council have
gone beyond a reasonable and legitimate challenge to the local
authority's activities and are serving no interest, especially not one
that is public, except your own.

In light of this I have directed my officers to adhere to the
arrangements as outlined in Mr Holling's letter to you of 5 April and
not engage in any further correspondence with you on any matters
relating to your opposition to 10/01928/FULEXT. This includes, for the
reasons stated earlier in this letter, through the Freedom of
Information process."

We are therefore refusing this request under S14 (vexatious or repeated
requests) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, on the grounds that it
is intentionally vexatious in nature. A copy of the exemption is
attached.

If you are unhappy with the Council's decision, you may ask for an
internal review. This should be directed to David Lowe, Scrutiny &
Partnership Manager at the Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury RG14
5LD, email [email address]. 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

Sue Broughton

Information Management Officer

Policy & Communication

* West Berkshire Council, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury RG14
5LD

Email: [West Berkshire Council request email]

01635 519747 (external) ' 2747 (internal) 6: 01635 519317

You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this Council
are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore may be
disclosed to a third party.

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

show quoted sections

Dear Sue Broughton,

Many thanks for your prompt reply.

S14 (as attached to your response) provides an exemption for vexatious or repeated requests as follows:

(1) Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the request is vexatious.

(2) Where a public authority has previously complied with a request for information which was made by any person, it is not obliged to comply with a subsequent identical or substantially similar request from that person unless a reasonable interval has elapsed between compliance with the previous request and the making of the current request.

My request is neither vexatious, nor have I made the request before, and I would therefore be grateful if you could forward the request to Mr Lowe for an internal review.

Many thanks.

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Sue Broughton, West Berkshire Council

FoI/2011/IR/11

Dear Mrs Giggins,

Request for a review: FoI/2011/532

Thank you for your email which has been passed to Mr Lowe. We will seek
to respond within twenty working days.

Yours sincerely

Sue Broughton

Information Management Officer

Policy & Communication

* West Berkshire Council, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury RG14
5LD

Email: [West Berkshire Council request email]

01635 519747 (external) ' 2747 (internal) 6: 01635 519317

You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this Council
are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore may be
disclosed to a third party.

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

show quoted sections

Dear Sue Broughton,

Has Mr Lowe completed his internal review of this request?

Since making the request Sovereign Housing/Ledbitter have applied for and been granted a demolition notice for the Priory/Platt Court, with demolition to commence on 17th October.

I believe bats are still present in the buildings. As a protected species this, together with the other environmental effects of the demolition should have been taken into account in the EIA/EIA screening opinion.

This is not a vexatious request. It has a very serious purpose.

I would be grateful for a prompt response.

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

David Lowe, West Berkshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mrs Giggins,
 
Please find attached my response to your request for a review of the
handling of your Freedom of Information request.
 
Please accept my apologies for the late provision of this letter.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
David Lowe
Scrutiny and Partnerships Manager
West Berkshire Council
Market Street
Newbury
Berkshire
RG14 5LD
 
T: 01635 519817
 
[1]http://www.westberks.gov.uk/informationm...
 
[2]http://www.westberks.gov.uk/scrutiny
 
[3]http://www.westberkshirepartnership.org
 

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Dear David Lowe,

Thankyou for your letter.

Naturally I am disappointed and frustrated by the position the Council has adopted on this matter.

I believe that it is the Council and not myself who is 'misusing' the FOI act, particularly as the Environmental regulations/law specifically state that this information should be made available to a member of the public on request.

I note that you are relying on Mr Carter's assessment that I am vexatious (an assessment formed before this request, and apparently not subject to any review)to support your argument that this request is vexatious. Whilst I can and will counter your/his arguments, it is hard to see how you can support this line of reasoning under the Environmental Information Regulations. The advice I have received from the ICO is that the EIRs have a stronger presumption in favour of disclosure, and that you would have to demonstrate that my request is 'manifestly unreasonable'. Clearly it isn't.

In addition, I have been directed to a recent Tribunal decision that clarifies the distinction between a vexatious request and a request made by someone that a Council deems to be vexatious.

http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DB... Decision EA20110079.pdf

Finally, although I cannot remember where I read it, I believe that a request cannot/should not be deemed vexatious if the information that is being with-held would support the requestor's case/argument. Given the inaccuracies and ommissions in the unsigned negative screening opinion it is entirely possible that the information requested will support my argument that the environmental effects of this development were not adequately considered when forming the negative screening opinion.

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

J A Giggins left an annotation ()

The case referred to above is EA/2011/0079 Alan Dransfield v Information Commissioner on appeal from the Information Commissioner’s decision
No FS50317322, dated 16 March 2011.

The full decision can be accessed on the Information Tribunal web site http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk

DECISION
The Tribunal allows the appeal and substitutes the following Decision Notice in place of the Commissioner’s Decision Notice dated 16 March 2011.

SUBSTITUTED DECISION NOTICE

Date: 20 September 2011

Public Authority: Devon County Council

Name of Complainant: Alan Dransfield

The Substituted Decision

For the reasons set out in our determination, we find that the Appellant’s request dated 29 May 2010 was not vexatious.

Dear Mr Lowe,

I noticed that the link I pasted into my letter yesterday doesn't work. The team at whatdotheyknow.com have advised me to substitute % for spaces, which I have duly done below:

http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DB...

In the event that the link still does not work, and you have not read my annotation on the whatdotheyknow.com web site, the case referred to is EA/2011/0079 Alan Dransfield v Information Commissioner on appeal from the Information Commissioner’s decision
No FS50317322, dated 16 March 2011.

The full decision can be accessed on the Information Tribunal web site http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk

DECISION
The Tribunal allows the appeal and substitutes the following Decision Notice in place of the Commissioner’s Decision Notice dated 16 March 2011.

SUBSTITUTED DECISION NOTICE

Date: 20 September 2011

Public Authority: Devon County Council

Name of Complainant: Alan Dransfield

The Substituted Decision

For the reasons set out in our determination, we find that the Appellant’s request dated 29 May 2010 was not vexatious.

I hope this is of help.

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Dear Mr Lowe,

Apologies to you and to the team at whatdotheyknow.com.

On rereading their advice, they said to substitute %20 for a space, which I have done below.

http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DB...

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

J A Giggins left an annotation ()

This last link works!

J A Giggins left an annotation ()

I have now referred this complaint to the ICO as follows:-

My request has been refused under s14 because I have been classed as a “vexatious requester” by West Berkshire Council.

I believe that contrary to your guidance WBC are using section 14 as an excuse to avoid awkward questions that have not yet been resolved satisfactorily.

The full history of my request is detailed online on Whatdotheyknow.com
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/en...

I would be grateful if you would consider my request/complaint under the EIRs as well as the FOI regulations as I understand that the EIRs have a stronger presumption in favour of disclosure, and that the Council would have to demonstrate that my request is 'manifestly unreasonable', which they haven't done (and can't do).

I would also ask you to take into account Tribunal decision in EA/2011/0079 Alan Dransfield v Information Commissioner, which clarifies the distinction between a vexatious request and a request made by someone that a Council deems to be vexatious.

http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DB...

Given the matters detailed above I don’t know whether it is necessary to refute the “vexatious requester” tag, but I would like to take this opportunity to state my case and point out that the “vexatious” term was not used in the Chief Executive’s letter of 14th June 2011, and the only opportunity given to respond to the letter was by way of complaint to the LGO. Mr Carter’s letter was four pages long and seemed to me to be attempting to justify a course of action that had already commenced (ie monitoring and diversion of all emails sent to officers or members), as well as trying to influence potential referrals to the ICO/LGO. There was no supporting documentation provided to substantiate the number of emails, and it has taken some time to locate those “emails” that seem to have caused offence as some of them were in fact online FOI requests or review requests made via Whatdotheyknow.com.

There is nothing derogatory, abusive or defamatory about the content of these requests/emails, or about this one, and both Mr Carter (in his letter of 14th June 2011), and Mr Lowe (in his internal review published on whatdotheyknow.com) have relied on the ICO’s five tests of classifying a requester as “vexatious” without taking account of the preliminary guidance, extracts of which I have cut and pasted in below:-

"An important point to note here is that it is the request – not the requester – that must be vexatious. You cannot judge a request to be vexatious just because the individual concerned has caused problems in the past. Nonetheless, the past behaviour of the requester will be relevant if the request continues that behaviour”

"Many previous cases of vexatious requests have been in the context of a longstanding grievance or dispute. However, a request will not automatically be vexatious simply because it is made in the context of a dispute or forms part of a series of requests. There may be genuine reasons for this. For example, a series of successive linked requests may be necessary where disclosures are unclear or raise further questions that the requester could not have foreseen. Similarly, in the context of a dispute, a request may be a reasonable way to obtain new information not otherwise available to the individual. You should not use section 14 as an excuse to avoid awkward questions that have not yet been resolved satisfactorily."

It is fair to say that the majority (not all) of my FOI requests have arisen out of a desire to understand how a proposal for demolition of existing occupied buildings and replacement with a high density urban style development approximately twice the footprint and height can be considered suitable for a sensitive site on the outermost fringes of a rural market town, adjacent to a historic common, and within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. However each request has related to a separate issue (eg housing need, financing, S106 allocations, planning meeting/training etc) with the exception of the two follow ups arising from the response to the FOI request about the meeting held before the Western Area Planning Meeting on 17th November.

Much of the remainder of my correspondence with the Council has been fairly routine eg requests for copies of documents not published on the planning portal, requests for “call in” of executive decisions, objection letters to 10/01928/fulext, objections to a couple of other planning applications, queries about speaking order and declarations of interest at planning meetings, matters to do with my daughter’s secondary school admission, and a couple concerning the asbestos incident at her primary school and the subsequent building works during SATS week. Some of the emails are simply reminders, acknowledgements, and thank yous. The exceptions are my follow ups to a previous complaint taken to the Local Government Ombudsman, where the Council was found to have committed maladministration, and my attempts on this occasion (with regard to 10/01928/FULEXT) to bring matters to the attention of the Monitoring Officer where I believe the Council was acting unlawfully, a process that is open to the public but seldom used.
Whilst I have shown determination and tenacity in trying to seek information, I do not think that the number of emails alone, without reference to their content can be classified as “excessive” or their contents “unreasonable”. Nor do I think that the fact that I made this FOI request three months after receipt of Mr Carter’s letter is “obsessive” or “harassing” behaviour. Although I acknowledge that Mr Carter’s letter informed me that he had instructed his officers not to reply to any further FOI requests, it did not (and surely could not?) ban me from making any!

“Deciding whether a request is vexatious is a balancing exercise, taking into account the context and history of the request. The key question is whether the request is likely to cause unjustified distress, disruption or irritation.”

I appreciate that putting in this further request may have put Council officers in the uncomfortable situation of either disregarding the instructions of their Chief Executive, or disregarding their knowledge of the law with regard to Freedom of Information, but the “harassment”, “distress” or “irritation”, if felt, was not of my making, and is more than justified, given that this information should be made available on request to anybody who asks for it, both under the provisions of the FOI Act and under Environmental Legislation supported by Case Law. There was no intention to cause disruption or annoyance nor is there any evidence that the request has had that effect. The request is self -explanatory and has very serious purpose and value in trying to establish how the many adverse environmental impacts of the Priory/Platt Court development were overlooked, disregarded or outweighed in the consideration of planning application 10/01928/FULEXT. The request, if answered, will also assist in raising awareness of the Environmental Regulations and the ‘duty to consult’ on environmental issues in circumstances which are very likely to arise in the future given the sites in Hungerford that West Berkshire Council have identified as ‘potentially developable’ in their draft SHLAA. There is also the possibility that an updated screening opinion for the whole development will be required for any amendments or additions to the Priory/Platt Court planning permission, and the information requested could inform a challenge of the opinion by appeal to the Secretary of State.

Sue Broughton, West Berkshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mrs Giggins,

The ICO has asked the authority to reconsider your request under the
Environmental information Regulations 2004, and a copy of our response
to you under this legislation is attached.

Yours sincerely

Sue Broughton

Information Management Officer

Policy & Communication

* West Berkshire Council, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury RG14
5LD

Email: [West Berkshire Council request email]

01635 519747 (external) ' 2747 (internal) 6: 01635 519317

You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this Council
are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore may be
disclosed to a third party.

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

show quoted sections

Dear Sue Broughton,

I regret to inform you that I am once again unhappy with the way that this request has been handled, since you are continuing to refuse to release information that should be in the public domain as per the Environmental Impact Regulations.

I also consider that you have given an inadequate, inaccurate and misleading refusal notice under the Environmental Information Regulations, and have misinterpreted the public interest test, as there is a presumption in favour of disclosure of information, unless it can be demonstrated that it would NOT be in the public interest to do so. Whilst I sympathise with the considerable staffing and operational constraints that the Local Authority is facing,you are still required to act within the statutory regulations of the FOI Act and the EI Regulations,regardless of your personal views or those of your Chief Executive, as to whether supplying the information requested is "counter productive", or an "inappropriate use of resources".

The fact of the matter is that provision of the information would have helped to inform my request to the Secretary of State (Eric Pickles) to "call in" the environmental screening opinion of subsequent applications for discharge of the many conditions attached to the application approval,and could possibly have led to a different outcome, and whilst the timeframe for applying for judicial review of the original planning application has passed the subsequent applications for discharge of conditions/breach of conditions are still well within the statutory timeframe.

It is my opinion that there is no valid reason for witholding this data. It also seems to me "manifestly unreasonable" to attempt to consider this as a "new" request" under the Environmental Information Regulations,giving the Council further time to delay provision of the information. Would it not be a more efficient use of resources to provide the information, which as I have stated previously should in any case be publicly available, rather than continuing to withhold it simply because your Chief Executive has told you not to?

I shall be referring the matter back to the ICO but in the meantime I would be grateful if you could instigate an internal review of this further response.

Many thanks.

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

David Lowe, West Berkshire Council

Dear Mrs Giggins,
 
Thank you for your e-mail which has been passed to me for action.
 
I will provide a response within 20 working days (by 8 February).
 
Yours sincerely,
 
David Lowe
Scrutiny and Partnerships Manager
West Berkshire Council
Market Street
Newbury
Berkshire
RG14 5LD
 
T: 01635 519817
 
[1]http://www.westberks.gov.uk/informationm...
 
[2]http://www.westberks.gov.uk/scrutiny
 
[3]http://www.westberkshirepartnership.org
 
 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.westberks.gov.uk/informationm...
file:///tmp/blocked::http:/www.westberks.gov.uk/informationmanagement
2. http://www.westberks.gov.uk/scrutiny
file:///tmp/blocked::http:/www.westberks.gov.uk/scrutiny
3. http://www.westberkshirepartnership.org/
file:///tmp/blocked::http:/www.westberkshirepartnership.org/

David Lowe, West Berkshire Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mrs Giggins,
 
Please find attached my response to your request for a reveiw of the
handling of your request for information.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
David Lowe
Scrutiny and Partnerships Manager
West Berkshire Council
Market Street
Newbury
Berkshire
RG14 5LD
 
T: 01635 519817
 
[1]http://www.westberks.gov.uk/informationm...
 
[2]http://www.westberks.gov.uk/scrutiny
 
[3]http://www.westberkshirepartnership.org
 
 

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Dear David Lowe,

Many thanks for your letter. I trust you have copied it to the ICO as requested by the Case Officer who referred.the complaint back to the Council.

As review of the request under the Environmental Information Regulations was a course of action suggested by the ICO, I am concerned that you have added it to your justification for classifying the request as manifestly unreasonable, and whilst you clearly think that I have no right to ask for this information, I do as you have stated have the right to challenge your decision with the ICO.

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Sue Broughton, West Berkshire Council

2 Attachments

FoI/20122/770
 
Dear Mrs Giggins
 
Request for information: Environmental Impact Assessment Screening Opinion
 
Following the Information Commissioner's Decision please find attached,
from the public planning file, the signed copy of the letter from Gary
Rayner, and the letter from Davina Bowe regarding the documentation for
the application and the EIA.
 
The remainder of the information requested:
 
The information considered by Gary Rayner to support his assessment that
the proposal is:
 
a) modest
b) on brownfield land
c) within the settlement boundary

 

will be provided shortly when it has been extracted from the public
planning file and any other sources (eg. PPG).

 

Please note that the Decision Notice will be uploaded to the Council's
website once it has been published by the Information Commissioner.
Decision Notices can be found here:
[1]http://www.westberks.gov.uk/index.aspx?a...

 

Yours sincerely

 

Sue Broughton

Information Management Officer

Strategic Support

 

* West Berkshire Council, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury RG14 5LD

Email:  [2][West Berkshire Council request email]

01635 519747 (external)      '   2747 (internal)       6:   01635 519317 

You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this Council are
subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore may be
disclosed to a third party.

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

 

show quoted sections

J A Giggins left an annotation ()

ICO decision notice can be found at: http://www.ico.gov.uk/~/media/documents/...

Sue Broughton, West Berkshire Council

2 Attachments

FoI/20122/770
 
Dear Mrs Giggins
 
Request for information: Environmental Impact Assessment Screening Opinion
 
Following the Information Commissioner's Decision please find attached the
remainder of the Council's response to your request.
 
Yours sincerely

 

Sue Broughton

Information Management Officer

Strategic Support

 

* West Berkshire Council, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury RG14 5LD

Email:  [1][West Berkshire Council request email]

01635 519747 (external)      '   2747 (internal)       6:   01635 519317 

You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this Council are
subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore may be
disclosed to a third party.

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

 

show quoted sections

Dear Sue Broughton,

Are you intending to provide a response to part 3 of my request?

(3) Any other correspondence to/from WBC from any source
(applicant/agents/consultees/objectors etc)relating to the
requirement or not for an Environmental Impact Assessment
Assessment and/or screening opinion.

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Sue Broughton, West Berkshire Council

I am out of the office on Monday 25th June. Emails will be answered on my
return.

show quoted sections

Sue Broughton, West Berkshire Council

Dear Mrs Giggins,

My apologies. I thought we had already advised you that there was no other correspondence.

Yours sincerely

Sue Broughton

Information Management Officer

Strategic Support

* West Berkshire Council, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury RG14 5LD

Email: [West Berkshire Council request email]

01635 519747 (external) ' 2747 (internal) 6: 01635 519317

You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this Council are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore may be disclosed to a third party.

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

show quoted sections

J A Giggins left an annotation ()

I have classified this request as "still waiting for information" because although after the ICO's intervention, I have finally received a response from West Berkshire Council, I have not received all of the information requested, and am therefore intending to refer it back to the ICO.

Sue Broughton, West Berkshire Council

2 Attachments

FoI/20121/770

 

Dear Mrs Giggins,

 

Request for information: Environmental Impact Assessment

 

The ICO has advised the authority of your complaint regarding our response
to this request, and in particular of your view that:

 

“I am aware that at least one objector queried the need for an
Environmental Statement but that objection letter and the response to it
(I believe the regulations dictate that there should have been one) have
not been supplied.”

 

The authority considered the objections when framing its response to your
request. Two objectors (Major Giggins and Mrs Fry) mentioned the
environmental impact of the proposed development, but it was our view that
the comments made did not fall within the scope of a request for:

 

(3) Any other correspondence to/from WBC from any source
(applicant/agents/consultees/objectors etc) relating to the requirement or
not for an Environmental Impact Assessment Assessment and/or screening
opinion.

 

However, the ICO has suggested that we may resolve this complaint by
supplying you with any other information which may fall within the scope
of the request, and accordingly I have attached Major Giggins objection
and Mrs Fry’s objection, both published on the Council’s Planning portal
in 2010 when the application was live. Copies have also been supplied to
the Information Commissioner.

 

No response beyond the standard acknowledgement was made to either letter.
The planning process does not permit the planning authority to enter into
correspondence with an objector over the content of their objection.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Sue Broughton

Information Management Officer

 

* Strategic Support West Berkshire Council, Council Offices, Market
Street, Newbury RG14 5LD

Email:  [1][West Berkshire Council request email]

01635 519747 (external)      '   2747 (internal)      

You should be aware that all emails received and sent by this Council are
subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and therefore may be
disclosed to a third party.

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

 

show quoted sections

Dear Sue Broughton,

Many thanks for supplying this further information.

As far as I am aware the Information Commissioner has not yet reached a decision on this complaint and the disclosure of these two further documents does not resolve it to my satisfaction.

The referral back to the commissioner was on the basis that I still did not believe I had received a full or honest response to the request.

This further release of information, prompted by the Commissioner, some 15 months after the request was made, and when the original buildings in question have long been demolished and the new development built to at least the third of their four storeys, actually reinforces my complaint that West Berkshire Council has and is continuing to delay provision of information until such time as it is no longer useful - in effect a further breach of s77 of the FOI Act ( or its EIR equivalent). This is a point that I have already asked the Commissioner to consider and that I am hoping will be covered in the decision notice when it is issued.

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

J A Giggins left an annotation ()

This is an extract from an exempt report for a joint cost and risk sharing proposal between West Berkshire Council & Sovereign Housing for this proposal:

"The Priory Court Project in Hungerford is a 46 unit extra care housing development for people aged 55 plus, which will be developed by Sovereign South & West (SS&W) on previously developed land within their ownership. The project will also include the development of a 29 unit sheltered scheme for older people with support needs."

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/4...

The Head of Development control who signed the screening opinion was consulted on the risk sharing proposal for this development which was in fact primarily in the garden/grounds of buildings which were subsequently demolished. The Government had already brought in changes to PPS3 at the time the decision on the cost and risk sharing agreement was made but neither the Head of Development Control nor the other planning officers consulted picked up on the issue at that time, and the misclassification was repeated in the screening opinion, despite the fact that the change in classification of gardens to "greenfield" was acknowledged in the planning statement submitted with the application.

So it appears that the Executive made a decision based on incorrect information, and because the meeting was held behind closed doors that information could not be challenged.

Three years on the buildings are ready for occupation. However it appears that the "need" for affordable accommodation for the over 55's which overrode all planning objections is not as great as originally anticipated, despite Sovereign closing down their two existing 'old persons' developments in Hungerford. See Q(a) in the attached:

http://decisionmaking.westberks.gov.uk/d...

Transparency? Accountability?

J A Giggins left an annotation ()

The negative EIA screening opinion for the development was not displayed on the planning portal whilst the planning application was being considered nor was it ( or the fact that the development fell within the definitions of the Regulations) brought to the attention of the Western Area Planning Committee.

A recent Judicial Review judgement confirms that planning permission can be quashed in such circumstances.

http://www.39essex.com/docs/general/rmou...

J A Giggins left an annotation ()

The decision notice resultant from referring this request back to the Commissioner was FER0457411.https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

From the summary of the request you would never guess it was the same one.

Further enquiries later revealed that the Council had been expressing their concern about the previous decision notice to the Group Manager/signatory at the ICO. It took two SAR's ( firstly to the Council, then the ICO, two FOI decisions, and an appeal to the FIrst Tier Tribunal before I received full copies of the letters and was able to see what had been said about me.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/l...

J A Giggins left an annotation ()

The section of the second decision notice which most concerned me was this:

"The Commissioner asked if there was any further information held by the council (other than that already provided in response to point 4 of the request) that indicated what information the named person had considered in reaching his opinion, such as standard forms or internal supporting documents. The council stressed that senior planning officers constantly make assessments based on their knowledge of planning law, prior appeals and decisions, and on their professional expertise. An assessment of this nature could not be written down in a procedure or a form. The Commissioner had previously expressed a similar view to the complainant regarding how a decision such as this had been arrived at and the fact that the legislation only covered recorded information."

Information that I had obtained and forwarded to the case officer indicated that it was in fact 'best practice' for planning officers to complete a standard form for EIR screening.........

J A Giggins left an annotation ()

Email to ICO case officer sent 9th January 2013
Dear xx xxxxxxx

I found this checklist on the National Planning Portal. It seems to correspond with the checklist used by David Crook when he formed his screening opinion.
Obviously I can't be sure that West Berkshire Council use it and there doesn't appear to be a publication date. However I don't think it is unreasonable to argue that it is probable that something similar was used by West Berkshire Council.

EIA ANALYSIS AND SCREENING – PART 1

http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads...

J A Giggins left an annotation ()

A useful summary of EIA case law including the case brought against WBC can be found here:

http://www.landmarkchambers.co.uk/userfi...