Grange Hill planning - No EFFECTIVE public participation permitted.

Alan Rundle made this Freedom of Information request to Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

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

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

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

In 2009/2010 Wirral metropolitan Borough Council published a 'Grange Hill Management Plan and Security Audit'.
Between 2012 and 2014 many trees were felled,by one individual, using a chain saw, on Grange Hill, apparently, with the authority of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council.

The numbers of birds and bats, seen by local people, following the tree-felling, have declined dramatically.

Some local children have climbed trees, on Grange Hill, and refused to come down, for fear that an adult, with a chainsaw, may fell the trees after the children have gone home. This is an unacceptable situation. Local children are members of the 'public concerned'. How many under-eighteen year old members of the 'public concerned' did Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council engage with, prior to the publication of its 2 June 2014 Management Plan for Grange Hill, when "all options were open and when their public participation could be EFFECTIVE"?

On 2 June 2014 Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council published a Grange Hill Management Plan. The plan had attached to it a shambolic feedback form containing numerous comments. The management plan failed to show any evidence of EFFECTIVE public participation by members of the "public concerned". The feedback form, in failing to request names or addresses, failed to provide the local authority with the facility to distinguish comments made by members of the public from outside West Kirby and those made by members of the public from West Kirby ("the public concerned").

Please provide copies of all emails, fax messages and letters, to
and from EVERY Council officer, between 2011 and 16 January
2015, concerning the funding of the so-called 'Friends of Grange Hill' group, responsible for considerable environmental damage to Grange Hill, West Kirby.

Please provide details of the numbers of "members of the public" who responded to the local authority 'feedback forms', which followed widespread tree-felling, and numbers of "members of the public concerned" who filled out the forms.
Please provide details of the members of the "public concerned" who were invited to participate in any EFFECTIVE public participation process, concerning the future of Grange Hill, prior to 2 June 2014

Please provide details of the members of the "public concerned" who were invited to participate as members of a Steering Group, in any EFFECTIVE public participation process, concerning the future of Grange Hill, prior to 2 June 2014.

Yours faithfully,

Alan Rundle

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr. Rundle,

Thank you for your request for information which has been facilitated
under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 as it falls within
the definition of ‘environmental information’, in that  it relates to:

 

the state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere,
water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites including wetlands, coastal
and marine areas, biological diversity and its components, including
genetically modified organisms, and the interaction among these elements
(EIR R.2(a))

 

In relation to the part of your enquiry requesting “ …. copies of all
emails, fax messages and letters, to and from EVERY Council officer,
between 2011 and 16 January 2015, concerning the funding of the so-called
'Friends of Grange Hill' group, responsible for considerable 
environmental damage to Grange Hill, West Kirby….”  The Council can
confirm that it does hold information which meets the parameters of your
request and has given due consideration to R.12(4)(e) of the legislation. 
Please see further details below:-

 

Regulation 12.

(1) Subject to paragraphs (2), (3) and (9), a public authority may refuse
to disclose environmental information requested if—

(a) an exception to disclosure applies under paragraphs (4) or (5); and

(b) in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in
maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the
information.

 

(4) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), a public authority may refuse to
disclose information to the extent that

(e) the request involves the disclosure of internal communications.

 

As with all exceptions under EIR legislation, R.12(4)(e) is a qualified
exception and is subject to the public interest test as set out in
R.12(1)(b).   It is a class-based (rather than prejudice-based), meaning
that the sensitivity of the information does not need to be considered. 
The public interest factors for disclosure include the necessary
opportunity for the authority to be accountable for their work to the
public and how it utilises the public purse.

 

When involved in the decision making process, however, it is important
that public authority officers are allowed an opportunity for the free and
frank exchange of ideas.  This enables all options to be considered prior
to any formal publication or consultation.  The public interest factors
for withholding this information are to protect this very process. The
ICO’s guidance states that ‘public interest arguments should be focussed
on protecting the public authority’s private thinking space. Other
arguments will not be relevant to this exception.’

 

The Council believes that If these internal communications were to be
disclosed then officers may understandably be reluctant to fully engage in
future conversations, as each aspect of these could be open to public
examination.  The outcome of this may well be that the discussion/s may
not explore all possible options or give due consideration to pertinent
issues.  This would be to the detriment of the public at large.

 

The role of a public authority officer comes with a certain degree of
autonomy within the parameters of the organisations stated policies and
procedures. It would simply be impractical for all actions to be
scrutinised by the public due to the adverse impact that this would have
on the role they are employed to carry out, and would therefore constitute
a misuse of public money.

 

The Council therefore believes that, due to the impact that disclosure
would have on our ability to efficiently conduct public functions, the
public interest for withholding the requested information outweighs that
of disclosure.

 

In addition to this, and in relation to providing feedback from members of
the public, the Council believes that supplying this information could
lead to the identification of a living individual.  Data which relates to
a living individual who can be identified from that data (Section 1(1) of
the Data Protection Act 1998). 

I therefore consider that this part of your request is exempt information
under R.12(3) of the Environmental Information Regulations. I consider
that the disclosure of the requested information would contravene the
first data protection principle, that personal data shall be processed
fairly and lawfully, and shall not be processed unless at least one of the
conditions in Schedule 2 of the Act is met. I do not consider that any of
the conditions in Schedule 2 would be met in this instance.  I consider
that there would have been no expectation on behalf of the data subjects
that this information would be disclosed to a third party.

 

I have considered whether there is a legitimate public interest in
disclosure and balanced this against the rights of the individuals. This
is an absolute exemption and not subject to the public interest test.

 

I am therefore refusing your request for information under Regulations
12(4)(e) and 12(3) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. You
have the right under R.11 of the legislation to make representations to
the Council if it appears that the Regulations have not been adhered to.
To do so, please contact [1][Wirral Borough Council request email]  where it
will be allocated for review.

 

If you are dissatisfied with this response to your review, you have the
right to complain to the Information Commissioner. The address is the
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire SK9 5AF [2]www.ico.gov.uk

 

Yours Sincerely

Jane Corrin

Information and Central Services Manager Wirral Council

 

 

 

 

From: Alan Rundle [[3]mailto:[FOI #248597 email]]

Sent: 16 January 2015 10:47

To: InfoMgr, FinDMT

Subject: Freedom of Information request - Grange Hill planning - No
EFFECTIVE public participation permitted.

 

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

 

In 2009/2010 Wirral metropolitan Borough Council published  a 'Grange Hill
Management Plan and Security Audit'.

Between 2012 and 2014 many trees were felled,by one individual, using a
chain saw, on Grange Hill, apparently, with the authority of Wirral
Metropolitan Borough Council.

 

The numbers of birds and bats, seen by local people, following the
tree-felling, have declined dramatically.

 

Some local children have climbed trees, on Grange Hill, and refused to
come down, for fear that an adult, with a chainsaw, may fell the trees
after the children have gone home. This is an unacceptable situation.
Local children are members of the 'public concerned'. How many
under-eighteen year old members of the 'public concerned' did Wirral
Metropolitan Borough Council engage with, prior to the publication of its
2 June 2014 Management Plan for Grange Hill, when "all options were open
and when their public participation could be EFFECTIVE"?

 

On 2 June 2014 Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council published a Grange Hill
Management Plan. The plan had attached to it a shambolic feedback form
containing numerous comments. The management plan failed to show any
evidence of EFFECTIVE public participation by members of the "public
concerned". The feedback form, in failing to request names or addresses,
failed to provide the local authority with the facility to distinguish
comments made by members of the public from outside West Kirby and those
made by members of the public from West Kirby ("the public concerned").

 

Please provide copies of all emails, fax messages and letters, to and from
EVERY Council officer, between 2011 and 16 January 2015, concerning the
funding of the so-called 'Friends of Grange Hill' group, responsible for
considerable  environmental damage to Grange Hill, West Kirby.

 

Please provide details of the numbers of "members of the public" who
responded to the local authority 'feedback forms', which followed
widespread tree-felling, and numbers of "members of the public concerned"
who filled out the forms.

Please provide details of the members of the "public concerned" who were
invited to participate in any EFFECTIVE public participation process,
concerning the future of Grange Hill, prior to 2 June 2014

 

Please provide details of the members of the "public concerned" who were
invited to participate as members of a Steering Group, in any EFFECTIVE
public participation process, concerning the future of Grange Hill, prior
to 2 June 2014.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Alan Rundle

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Wirral Borough Council request email]
2. http://www.ico.gov.uk/
3. mailto:[FOI #248597 email]

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Grange Hill planning - No EFFECTIVE public participation permitted.'.

You state that "I am therefore refusing your request for
information under Regulations 12(4)(e) and 12(3) of the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004".

I note that your response fails to draw my attention to the
requirements of the 'Convention on Access to Information, Public
Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in
Environmental Matters' (the Aarhus Convention).

Why did you not inform me of my rights to Access to Information
under the Aarhus Convention?

The United Kingdom is a Party to the Aarhus Convention an local
authorities are obliged to follow the requirements of the Aarhus
Convention.

The UK has a dualistic legal system, in terms of environmental law.
UK (Domestic) environmental legislation is required to meet the
standards
of International Law (the Aarhus Convention).

The request for information is most definitely IN THE PUBLIC
INTEREST. I am NOT requesting ANY private emails or correspondence.

I expect Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council to provide the
information requested.

Yours faithfully,

Alan Rundle

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A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/g...

Yours faithfully,

Alan Rundle