Inspection strategy for potentially contaminated sites

Mr Carroll made this Freedom of Information request to Sandwell 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.

The request was successful.

Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council,

I am writing to make an open government request for all the
information to which I am entitled under the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations.

In order to assist you with this request, I am outlining my query as specifically as possible.

If however this request is too wide or too unclear, I would be grateful if you could contact me as I understand that under the act, you are required to advise and assist requesters.

In a previous Freedom of information request concerning a specifc site, ref Enq 1 106721027 I was told

"With regard to the determination of the land under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, this provision requires Local Authorities to inspect their land for any contamination causing unacceptable risks to human health and the wider environment in respect of its current use. The Council published its inspection strategy in 2001 setting out the principles underlying its approach to inspection in accordance with the requirements of the 1990 Act and statutory guidance contained in Circular 01/2006.

The Council has taken a risk based approach to inspection, aiming to identify and deal with the worst areas of land in the first instance. As part of the prioritisation process, the Gower Tip has been assessed in accordance with the approach contained in the Prioritisation and Categorisation Procedure for Sites that may be contaminated. The Gower Tip has been assigned an inspection priority category of 3, i.e. contaminants may be present but are unlikely to have an unacceptable impact on key targets."

Having been supplied with the inspection strategy in another Freedom of information request-51906-b519a8e1@whatdo theyknow.com I am seeking further explanation of the gradation of "inspection priority category" which I cannot find any reference to in the inspection strategy document. Could I therefore ask for the Council's full numbered gradation category scheme in respect of identification of priority and an explanation of each numbered category?

(ii) From the executive summary of the Sandwell Contaminated Land inspection strategy.
"Contaminated Land is recognised as a Corporate issue, relating to many areas of the Council’s work. There already exists the “Trans-Thematic Working Party on Contaminated Land” which is comprised of officers from a number of Council themes who have an interest in land contamination matters. This will be the mechanism by which the Contaminated Land Inspection Strategy will be
implemented, ensuring a corporate approach is maintained, and monitor progress towards inspection."

Could I ask if the “Trans-Thematic Working Party on Contaminated Land” still exists or when it ceased to exist and if minutes of its meetings are publically availbale? On how many occassions does it meet per month/annum?

(iii)In section 4.1 Review timetable the document states for action;
"Inspection of the first geographical area, and assessment of sites in accordance with priority ratings End of June 2003"
"Inspection of the rest of the area and assessment of sites in accordance with priority ratings End of June 2005."
Can you confrim that this timetable was met and that all sites have now been assigned an "inspection priority category" in the Metroploitan Borough of Sandwell?

(iv)From section 5.1 Management Responsibilities in the strategy;
"The Environmental Health and Trading Standards Service is responsible for developing and maintaining the management information system required for the implementation of the strategy. A computerised database system will be
required to capture relevant information in an accessible form."
and 5.2 Information Requirements and 5.2.1 site referencing system details how this was to be achieved;
"A computerised database should provide and summarise information with regard to the parameters are described below."
Could you provide a full location list of sites that have so far been categorised according to the numbered "inspection priority category" ,stating the number assigned for each site, and whether these sites have been inspected under the council's inspection strategy? Could I request this in excel spreadsheet form if possible?

I understand that under the act, I should be entitled to a response within 20 working days.I would be grateful if you could confirm that you have received this request. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future via the whatdotheyknow.com request system.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Carroll

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Thank you for contacting Sandwell Council.

Your request has been passed to the relevant service area, who will contact you shortly.

Please quote your reference number INT1-197151686 on all future correspondence.

Regards

Corporate Contact Centre
Customer Services
Transform Sandwell

www.sandwell.gov.uk

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Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Please find attached a letter from Sandwell Council in response to your recent contact.

This letter will advise you of the timescales for response and will provide our contact details should you need to get in touch.

If you cannot open the attachment please download the FREE adobe reader that can be found at www.adobe.com
Please do not reply to this e-mail but instead use the contact details found in the letter.

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

See Letter attached

Dear Sandwell 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 Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Inspection strategy for potentially contaminated sites'.

I consider that questions 1-3 of my original request have been met, but that the council's decision to refuse information relating to question 4 is unsound in that it relies on "Regulation 12(4)(d) of the EIR contains an exemption relating to "Material in the course of completion, unfinished documents and incomplete data". My request asked
"4. Could you provide a full location list of sites that have so far been categorised according to the numbered “inspection priority category”, stating the number assigned for each site, and whether these sites have been inspected under the councils inspection strategy? Could I request this in excel spreadsheet form if possible?"
It is my understanding that this inspection priority ranking has been completed- "The inspection strategy stated within the review timetable has been undertaken and all sites identified to date have been assigned an “inspection priority category.” "
Whether this is open to "continuous revision" is irrelevant as it has been completed and is held by the council and IS A FINISHED DOCUMENT, as the council had a deadline to meet to catergorise its sites. This statement merely provides an excuse to delay publishing the information and literally it does indicate that the council will never publish the information at all given that there is no realistic chance of all identified sites ever being assessed to complete a "FINAL" published document.
"The process is purely a means of ranking sites in a pragmatic order for further assessment."
Given the broadness of the council's methodology for categorisation, and potential publication of this "pragmatic order", the gradation is hardly likely to change that greatly in the future for all sites, though may change for some sites. The "incomplete data" aspect falls into the future site investigation aspect only "as site investigation and assessment works progress and new development works are undertaken."
May I remind you that my request asked
"Could you provide a full location list of sites that have so far been categorised according to the numbered “inspection priority category”, stating the number assigned for each site, and whether these sites have been inspected under the councils inspection strategy?
*ALL SITES HAVE BEEN ASSIGNED AN INSPECTION CATEGORY
*THE COUNCIL HOLDS THIS INFORMATION
*IT IS COMPLETE
*IT HAS NOT BEEN PUBLISHED, AND THE COUNCIL HAVE NOT GIVEN ANY FUTURE PUBLICATION DATE
Furthermore in a previous request I was provided with the information that in the case of The Gower Tip in Tividale, this particular site had been given a priority category of 3 but had not yet been inspected- thus the council has made availbale this information concerning one site which it considers not yet complete, so why can it not make available the list for all sites?
The public interest test outweighs favour of disclosure over non disclosure given that anyone living in the borough would like to see full transparency for council decisions and be able to scrutinise the way that public money has been spent, and also whether the council is indeed meeting its obligations under the EPA 1990 Part IIA.

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

Yours faithfully,

Mr Carroll

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Thank you for contacting Sandwell Council.

Your request has been passed to the relevant service area, who will contact you shortly.

Please quote your reference number INT1-207821612 on all future correspondence.

Regards

Corporate Contact Centre
Customer Services
Transform Sandwell

www.sandwell.gov.uk

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Nigel Parr, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Carroll,

 

I refer to your request for a review of the Council's response to your
Freedom of Information enquiry entitled "Inspection strategy for
potentially contaminated sites".

 

I am writing to inform you that this review is currently being undertaken,
but that is taking longer to complete than we would like on this occasion,
due to the complex nature of the review.

 

I can inform you that the Council plans to have a response completed by no
later than Friday 18th May 2012.

 

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Parr

 

Nigel Parr
Data Protection/Freedom of Information Officer

[1]Legal & Governance Services col

Sandwell Council...working for you

Sandwell Council
Oldbury
West Midlands
B69 3DE
W: [2]www.sandwell.gov.uk

 

T: 0121 569 3248
F: 0121 569 3182
E: [3][email address]

 

 

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Nigel Parr, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Carroll,

 

Please find attached the Council's response to your request for a review
of the Council's handling of your Freedom of Information enquiry.

 

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Parr

 

Nigel Parr
Data Protection/Freedom of Information Officer

[1]sandwell_mbc

Sandwell Council...working for you

Sandwell Council
Oldbury
West Midlands
B69 3DE
W: [2]www.sandwell.gov.uk

 

T: 0121 569 3248
F: 0121 569 3182
E: [3][email address]

 

 

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Mr Carroll left an annotation ()

The ICO it is then, and I'm sorry to dissapoint you Mr Taylor, but I don't bite quite as easily as you may think,though if you look at Whatdotheyknow.com and the service that it allows minnows like myself to pursue, you will note that it has uncovered quite a lot of "blight" within public authorities.
I would however like to point out some comments made in this reply.
"I have also considered the fact that disclosure of this information is highly likely to lead to large numbers of further requests from you, which will again cause serious disruption to the Council."

I have to say that this appears to imply that there must be something worth disclosing in this censored Sandwell council document. Mr Taylor of this council appears to know the future before it has happened. A very weak and poor argument here Mr Taylor.

"I have also considered the large number of requests you have submitted to a number of public bodies relating to contaminated land issues. Having inspected the “whatdotheyknow” website, it is evident that you have submitted at least ninety requests to a variety of public authorities and I have considered the cumulative effect of these requests across these
bodies as a whole, which place a significant burden on resources on the public sector as a whole. This does not take into account the further requests or complaints or other enquiries not submitted via the
“whatdotheyknow” website."

Sandwell Council is not the judge and jury concerning the release of information relating to ALL public bodies; yet an officer of it can misrepresent my requests as "obssessive" when they only seek the unpublished truth or that which has not been disclosed or refused to be disclosed by it, and employ false consensus that I have made many other Freedom of Information requests, complaints or other enquiries not submitted via the "what do they know" website.

Ganesh Sittampalam left an annotation ()

The ICO has ruled on this request and ordered disclosure: http://www.ico.org.uk/~/media/documents/...

Mr Carroll left an annotation ()

Thanks for posting this Ganesh, you beat me to my friend. To give a little further context to the decison notice which upheld my arguments in every respect, I received the following email from the ICO during the course of this ruling:

"Reference: FER0461667

Dear Mr Carroll

I write further to our recent telephone conversation of 8 April 2013 regarding your complaint about Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (the council).

When we spoke I explained that the council had informed me that it was now willing to release the information to you and I was waiting for it to confirm when it would do so. I have received a response from the council which states that it is not now willing to disclose the information to you. It has stated that it is now waiting for our formal decision notice in this case to record the Commissioner's decision.

I understand that you may be disappointed that the council has now changed its position. Therefore, I will now begin to prepare a formal decision notice which will outline the Commissioner's final decision regarding the council's response to your request for information. We will write to you again when it is ready to be served.

Thank you for your patience in this matter.

Yours sincerely
(name redacted)
Senior Case Officer - Complaints Resolution.

I would sincerely hope that the council now complies with the ICO decision and releases this information in accordance with the ruling and the law.

Stuart Taylor, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Carroll,

In accordance with the Decision Notice served on Sandwell MBC by the Information Commissioner's Office the Council will disclose to you the contaminated land register. Can you please confirm how you wish to receive the register.

Regards
Stuart Taylor
Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council,

Thankyou for clarification of release of the contaminated land register.Part 4 of my original request to which this relates stated

"Could you provide a full location list of sites that have so far been categorised according to the numbered "inspection priority category" ,stating the number assigned for each site, and whether these sites have been inspected under the council's inspection
strategy? Could I request this in excel spreadsheet form if possible?"

I would confirm that I would like to receive the register in electronic form via the whatdotheyknow.com address. If the electronic form in which you hold the requested data is available without having to change it into excel format, then to save officer time I am happy to receive it in the electronic form held by the council, as long as the original constituent parts of my request are contained within, so that the release of information in full can be progressed.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Carroll

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Thank you for contacting Sandwell Council.

Your request has been passed to the relevant service area, who will contact you shortly.

Please quote your reference number INT1-328966299 on all future correspondence.

Regards

Corporate Contact Centre
Customer Services
Transform Sandwell

www.sandwell.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Please find attached a letter from Sandwell Council in response to your recent contact.

This letter will advise you of the timescales for response and will provide our contact details should you need to get in touch.

If you cannot open the attachment please download the FREE adobe reader that can be found at www.adobe.com
Please do not reply to this e-mail but instead use the contact details found in the letter.

Mr Carroll left an annotation ()

The council was served the decision notice by the ICO on June 5th, giving them 35 calender days to release the information. This expired on 10th July when they chose to ask how I wanted to receive the information. Unfortunately the WDTK website doesn't allow the function of what happens after the internal review response in the classification system.
Therefore it is clear that SMBC are in breach of the ICO decison notice as they have not released the information within 35 calendar days, and continue to procrastinate on the issue. The ICO will be contacted if this persists.

Stuart Taylor, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Mr Carroll,

Please find attached the register as requested.

Regards
Stuart Taylor

Mr Carroll left an annotation ()

Success! and good health to all residents of Sandwell!

Mr Carroll left an annotation ()

New link to ICO ruling of this request can be read at
https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...