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Lion Farm Playing Fields

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Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council,

With regard to SMBC’s hitherto secret plan to develop Lion Farm Playing Fields:

1 Please disclose the minutes of the first meeting between Jeremy Knight Adams and SMBC members and/or staff;

2 Disclose ALL documents marked as “private” that were presented in support of Agenda Item 8 at the Asset Management and Land Disposal Committee Meeting of 19th December, 2012;

3 Please disclose all other documents passing between SMBC and Jeremy Knight Adams and/or companies over which he exercises significant control including but not limited to all documentation in respect of each and every extension of the option agreement in favour of Jeremy Knight Adams/his companies (to include the recent variation agreed by SMBC).

4 Please disclose all documentation relating to the marketing of the Lion Farm Playing Fields for development since 2008;

5 Disclose the fees paid by Jeremy Knight Adams/his companies to SMBC relating to the option agreement and subsequent extensions. Please also state the date of receipt and amount of each and every payment.

6 How was the original option fee calculated and by whom? Please confirm whether Mr David Willetts was involved in any aspect of this matter.

7 What price has been agreed, if any, should Mr Knight Adams/his companies choose to exercise the option? If so, how was this calculated and by whom? How has SMBC ensured that the price calculated fulfils SMBC’s legal obligation to secure “best value”?

8 What environmental tests have been conducted thus far as to industrial waste/pollution beneath the Playing Fields? What were the findings?

9 At paragraph 3.3 of the Report to Cabinet for the meeting on 15th November, 2017 it is said that Jeremy Knight Adams “has already incurred significant expenditure in securing adjoining land to develop the scheme. What evidence does SMBC have that this is true? What adjoining land does SMBC refer to?

Yours faithfully,

Julian Saunders

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Mr Julian Saunders
 
 
Your request for information has been passed to an investigating officer.
 
Your reference is FS-Case-66827312
 
 
Thank you
 
Sandwell MBC

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Julian Saunders,
 
Information Request - FS-Case-66827312
 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. In response to your
request I can confirm the following:
 
 
Thank you for your recent Freedom of Information e-mail requesting
information about the proposed retail development at Lion Farm Playing
Fields, Oldbury. You ask nine separate questions concerning the
development, they are all answered below. 1 Please disclose the minutes of
the first meeting between Jeremy Knight Adams and SMBC members and/or
staff; The Council does not hold this information. 2 Disclose ALL
documents marked as “private” that were presented in support of Agenda
Item 8 at the Asset Management and Land Disposal Committee Meeting of 19th
December 2012; No other documents were presented at Committee apart from
the Committee Report. A copy of that report is attached. 3 Please disclose
all other documents passing between SMBC and Jeremy Knight Adams and/or
companies over which he exercises significant control including but not
limited to all documentation in respect of each and every extension of the
option agreement in favour of Jeremy Knight Adams/his companies (to
include the recent variation agreed by SMBC). The Council holds no
documents passing between the SMBC Jeremy Knight Adams and his companies.
4 Please disclose all documentation relating to the marketing of the Lion
Farm Playing Fields for development since 2008; The Council does not hold
this information 5 Disclose the fees paid by Jeremy Knight Adams/his
companies to SMBC relating to the option agreement and subsequent
extensions. Please also state the date of receipt and amount of each and
every payment. The fee paid by Jeremy Knight Adams is £245,000 on 21st May
2013 6 How was the original option fee calculated and by whom? Please
confirm whether Mr David Willetts was involved in any aspect of this
matter. The option fee was agreed between the parties involved, the
Council and Hampton Properties. It is not Council policy to name
individual employees. 7 What price has been agreed, if any, should Mr
Knight Adams/his companies choose to exercise the option? If so, how was
this calculated and by whom? How has SMBC ensured that the price
calculated fulfils SMBC's legal obligation to secure “best value”? No sale
price has yet been agreed between the parties. 8 What environmental tests
have been conducted thus far as to industrial waste/pollution beneath the
Playing Fields? What were the findings? The Council has been advised that
Desk Top Studies have been undertaken on behalf of Mr Knight Adams. 9 At
paragraph 3.3 of the Report to Cabinet for the meeting on 15th November,
2017 it is said that Jeremy Knight Adams “has already incurred significant
expenditure in securing adjoining land to develop the scheme. What
evidence does SMBC have that this is true? What adjoining land does SMBC
refer to? Land ownership is a matter of public record, and details can be
obtained from the Land Registry. I hope that this is sufficient for your
purposes. If you wish to receive further information in regards to this
request or wish to submit a Freedom of Information Request please forward
your request to [Sandwell Council request email] or Information Management
Unit, Sandwell Council House, Freeth Street, Oldbury, West Midlands, B69
3DE.
 
 
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your
request, and should be addressed to:
 
Information Management Unit
Sandwell Council House
Freeth Street
Oldbury
West Midlands
B69 3DE
 
Email – [Sandwell Council request email]
 
If you are not content with the outcome of an 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
 
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Sandwell MBC

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 'Lion Farm Playing Fields'.

I have received what purports to be a response from you dated 15th February, 2018. Quite frankly it is a disgrace. SMBC have played fast and loose with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on many occasions but I would respectfully remind you that the subject of this Request is a multi-million pound “deal” where virtually no information has been made available to the public to date.

I request an internal review.

I make the following points based on the numbering of the original request:

1 I asked for the minutes of the first meeting with Knight Adams and you say you have no information! I am aware from other transactions from SMBC that there have been a series of un-minuted meetings held during the Jan Britton era where property developments and other deals have been discussed. Meetings have been un-minuted despite the presence of Council officers. This is clearly most unsatisfactory if not illegal. Pursuant to FOIA 2000 you have to say if documents exist. I am assuming from your response that you say they don’t but there must be diary and other documentary records of the meeting in existence. We know that Cllr Hussain introduced Knight Adams to the Council. Where and when did the first meeting with him take place and who was in attendance. Why was the meeting un-minuted. Please supply the same information for each and every other un-minuted meetings that took place.

2 I acknowledge receipt of the report (such as it is) and note that it was signed by two former employees who have also been involved in a string of highly suspicious SMBC deals (although they claim they didn’t know anything wrong was going on) ie Nick Bubalo and Neeraj Sharma. It is noted that at paragraph 4.1 reasons were to be recorded for giving exclusive rights to Knight Adams. Please disclose the written record setting out those reasons.

3 You say there are no documents passing between SMBC and Knight Adams/his companies. This cannot be true. For a start the option was finalised until some weeks after the AMLD hearing and there must have been correspondence agreeing that and Knight Adams must have sent in a cheque or made a money transfer. Further there have been extensions of the option term and these must have been agreed. Also this matter recently came back before Cabinet and there are various reference to Knight Adam’s plans eg bring forward a planning application and so there clearly must have been communications between the parties. Please make full disclosure. You have deliberately locked out anyone else from this deal and so it is in the public interest that people can see what negotiations have been ongoing.

4 It is noted that SMBC did not market the colossal greenfield site to anyone other that Knight Adams who was introduced by Cllr Hussain. This will be salient when SMBC tries to show that it has obtained “best value” pursuant to s.123 Local Government Act 1972.

5 You have failed to say how the option was calculated. This is crucial information. Did SMBC take external advice. If yes, please disclose it. If not then it is essential to know who calculated the requisite fee and how. That person must have been an employee with either legal or land sales experience and could not reasonably expect that his/her valuation should remain secret. We have also seen that a number of employees seemingly involved in this matter were also involved in other suspicious transactions and there may need to be further investigation into their precise actions in this particular matter.

6 Your response makes no sense. Please disclose the original option so that the public may see the precise wording.

7 Your reply is meaningless. This is land was that was used industrially by Accles and Pollock and others. We understand that there is continuing underground gas leakage. There are drainage issues with the site. SMBC must have some documentation relating to on-site environmental issues.

8 Although information can indeed be obtained (at a price) from HM Land Registry it is SMBC itself contending that Knight Adams has secured adjoining land at paragraph 3 of the Report to Cabinet, November, 2017. Dr Alison Knight who claims to have written the report must have evidence upon which she based this. I asked what that evidence was and ask again.

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

Yours faithfully,

Julian Saunders

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Mr Julian Saunders
 
 
Your request for information has been passed to an investigating officer.
 
Your reference is FS-Case-68410496
 
 
Thank you
 
Sandwell MBC

Info Management, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Good Morning Mr Saunders,

 

Following your request for a review I have cross referenced the points you
have raised with your original request and the service areas response.
Amongst the points you have raised, it appears that you have included some
additional requests for information that didn’t form part of your original
request. I have listed below, under the corresponding point number, the
new requests for information which we will be logging as a new Freedom of
Information request for the area to respond to while the Information
Management Unit deal with the points where you require an internal review.
The points we have pulled out which you appear to want reviewed are listed
below also.

 

New request for information:

 

1.       Where and when did the first meeting with him take place and who
was in attendance. Why was the meeting un-minuted. Please supply the same
information for each and every other un-minuted meetings that took place.

 2. It is noted that at paragraph 4.1 reasons were to be recorded for
giving exclusive rights to Knight Adams. Please disclose the written
record setting out those reasons.

6.  Did SMBC take external advice. If yes, please disclose it. Please
disclose the original option so that the public may see the precise
wording.

 

Points to be reviewed:

 

3.  You say there are no documents passing between SMBC and Knight
Adams/his companies. This cannot be true.

6. You have failed to say how the option was calculated. If not then it is
essential to know who calculated the requisite fee and how.

8. SMBC must have some documentation relating to on-site environmental
issues.

9. Dr Alison Knight who claims to have written the report must have
evidence upon which she based this. I asked what that evidence was and ask
again.

You will have received an email acknowledging your request for a review
which will be dealt with under FS-Case-68410496. A new request for
information will be created on our internal system to deal with the new
information requested as detailed above therefore you will also receive an
acknowledgement from our system confirming another FS number which that
will be dealt with under.

 

Kind Regards

Information Management Unit

 

[1]Legal & Governance Services col

 

Sandwell Council

Oldbury

West Midlands

B69 3DE

W: [2]www.sandwell.gov.uk

E: [3][Sandwell Council request email]

References

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2. file:///tmp/www.sandwell.gov.uk
3. mailto:[email address]

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Mr Julian Saunders
 
 
Your request for information has been passed to an investigating officer.
 
Your reference is FS-Case-68567213
 
 
Thank you
 
Sandwell MBC

Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council,

This request is long overdue and I have referred to the ICO.

Yours faithfully,

Julian Saunders

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Julian Saunders,
 
Information Request - FS-Case-68567213
 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. In response to your
request I can confirm the following:
 
 
Q1. Where and when did the first meeting with him take place and who was
in attendance. Why was the meeting un-minuted. Please supply the same
information for each and every other un-minuted meetings that took place.
A1. This information is not held by the Authority Q2. It is noted that at
paragraph 4.1 reasons were to be recorded for giving exclusive rights to
Knight Adams. Please disclose the written record setting out those
reasons. A2. 4.1 refers to the disposal of the land. The land is still in
the ownership of the Council and if the land is disposed of the reasons
for the course of action will be recorded at the time of disposal. Q6. Did
SMBC take external advice. If yes, please disclose it. Please disclose the
original option so that the public may see the precise wording. A6. The
Council did not seek external advice as it utilised the internal legal
service. In regard to the option agreement it is currently subject to an
ongoing review and the Council considers that disclosure would
disadvantage the Council in those discussions and as a consequence
prejudice the Council's commercial interests. Under the Freedom of
Information Act, the Council has the obligation to confirm or deny whether
it holds the information requested and to disclose it, unless an exemption
applies. Section 43(2) of the Freedom of Information Act states that
information is exempt from disclosure if it would or would be likely to
prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public
authority holding it). In this case, the Council believes that disclosing
the information you requested would prejudice the Council's commercial
interest. This is because of the ongoing negotiations with the developer.
Section 43(2) being a qualified exemption, its application must then be
balanced out with the public interest. In this case, the Council is
satisfied that the public interest in withholding the information is
greater than that in disclosing it. This is because the public has an
expectation that the council obtains value for money in its commercial
dealings and that disclosure into the public domain would prejudice those
negotiations. As a result, the Council believes it is entitled not to
disclose the requested information to you.
 
 
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your
request, and should be addressed to:
 
Information Management Unit
Sandwell Council House
Freeth Street
Oldbury
West Midlands
B69 3DE
 
Email – [Sandwell Council request email]
 
If you are not content with the outcome of an 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
 
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Sandwell MBC
For your information residents can now use their MySandwell account to log
many Sandwell Council requests online, including reporting missed
collections; fly tipping and pot holes. Residents can also check their
council tax balance on MyAccounts and find ‘MyNearest’ on their
personalised homepage. For information please go
to [1]www.sandwell.gov.uk/mysandwell.

References

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Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Julian Saunders,
 
Information Request - FS-Case-68410496
 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. In response to your
request I can confirm the following:
 
 
Q3. You say there are no documents passing between SMBC and Knight
Adams/his companies. This cannot be true. A3. The Council has no documents
directly between itself and Knight Adams/his companies. Most of the
correspondence in reference to this was between ourselves and his legal
representatives and is subject to Legal Professional Privilege. Q6. You
have failed to say how the option was calculated. If not then it is
essential to know who calculated the requisite fee and how. A6. The fee
was agreed between the two parties. Q8. SMBC must have some documentation
relating to on-site environmental issues. A8. The Council does not hold
any documentation in relation to the on-site environmental issues
undertaken by Knight Adams. Q9. Dr Alison Knight who claims to have
written the report must have evidence upon which she based this. I asked
what that evidence was and ask again. A9. The Information is available
from another source and can be obtained from the Land Registry Office. The
Council does not disclose information provided to it by third parties in
confidence, that may have occurred as part of their commercial activities.
 
 
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your
request, and should be addressed to:
 
Information Management Unit
Sandwell Council House
Freeth Street
Oldbury
West Midlands
B69 3DE
 
Email – [Sandwell Council request email]
 
If you are not content with the outcome of an 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
 
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Sandwell MBC
For your information residents can now use their MySandwell account to log
many Sandwell Council requests online, including reporting missed
collections; fly tipping and pot holes. Residents can also check their
council tax balance on MyAccounts and find ‘MyNearest’ on their
personalised homepage. For information please go
to [1]www.sandwell.gov.uk/mysandwell.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.sandwell.gov.uk/mysandwell

Julian Saunders

Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council,

Your reply is unsatisfactory. This is a multi-million pound deal we are talking about here for a huge 19ha greenfield site. You have done a secret deal with a sole developer without taking any external advice or marketing the property elsewhere.

The developer was introduced to the Council is suspicious circumstances. As all other potential contracting parties were prevented from tendering for this bizarre deal there can be no question of commercial confidentiality as this is simply an unlawful secret deal.

It is incredible that SMBC could meet with a developer on such a massive deal and have no record of the meeting.

David Willetts is a disgraced employee who - innocently or not - was directly involved in SMBC fraudulent transactions. It is in the public interest to know if he was involved in this transaction and how.

The developer has also paid just under a quarter of a million pounds for the option in 2013. There simply must be some record of how SMBC came to work out this figure (bearing in mind SMBC did not take external advice).

Legal professional privilege cannot be used to circumvent the FOIA - particularly if this deal turns out to be fraudulent. I have asked for documents prepared by public employees at SMBC relating to the decisions behind this transaction and these are not privileged in any event.

I have four Land Registry certificates showing Lion Farm but none show land being bought up by the developer as specifically alleged by your own senior employee. What specific land is she referring to.

I would respectfully remind you that this wider matter may go to judicial review and I shall make sure your total failure to respond to reasonable requests is put before the court.

Yours faithfully,

Julian Saunders

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Mr Julian Saunders
 
 
Your request for information has been passed to an investigating officer.
 
Your reference is FS-Case-81389864
 
 
Thank you
 
Sandwell MBC
For your information residents can now use their MySandwell account to log
many Sandwell Council requests online, including reporting missed
collections; fly tipping and pot holes. Residents can also check their
council tax balance on MyAccounts and find ‘MyNearest’ on their
personalised homepage. For information please go
to [1]www.sandwell.gov.uk/mysandwell.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.sandwell.gov.uk/mysandwell

Sandwell MBC, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr Julian Saunders,
 
Information Request - FS-Case-81389864
 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. In response to your
request I can confirm the following:
 
 
In regard to your request for further information I can confirm the
following. I can confirm that the Council does not hold any information in
regard to meetings between ourselves and Knight Adams. While the Council
will not confirm which officers dealt with this, I can confirm that David
Willetts was not involved. The Council does not find your use of
inappropriate language acceptable in regard to the named individual. In
regard to the level of the fee I can confirm that this was agreed between
the two parties. I can confirm that there are emails held by the Authority
between Knights Adams solicitors and the Council. However, I find that the
Authority should not solely have relied upon Legal Professional Privilege.
I am also of the opinion that these emails directly relate to the ongoing
negotiation and agreement between the two parties (SMBC and Knight Adams)
concerning Lion Farm and as a result are commercially confidential. The
FoIA allows public bodies to not disclose information if it feels that it
falls under S43(2). It is the Council's opinion that disclosure of these
emails may prejudice the ongoing commercial negotiations between the
parties. Section 43(2) is a qualified exemption and requires the local
authority to carry out a public interest test. In this instance the
Council believe that the public expect the Local Authority to ensure that
value for money is achieved in all of its financial dealings and that
while negotiations are ongoing these discussions need to be in a secure,
confidential manner so as to ensure that the Local Authority achieves best
value. Therefore while the negotiations are ongoing we believe that the
general public would understand and appreciate the Council's position to
not disclose commercially confidential information. Based on the above the
Council will not be disclosing emails between itself and Knight Adams
solicitors. The Council 's previous response to your comment on purchase
of land was: “The Information is available from another source and can be
obtained from the Land Registry Office. The Council does not disclose
information provided to it by third parties in confidence, that may have
occurred as part of their commercial activities.” The Council has nothing
further to add to this point.
 
 
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your
request, and should be addressed to:
 
Information Management Unit
Sandwell Council House
Freeth Street
Oldbury
West Midlands
B69 3DE
 
Email – [Sandwell Council request email]
 
If you are not content with the outcome of an 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
 
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Sandwell MBC
For your information residents can now use their MySandwell account to log
many Sandwell Council requests online, including reporting missed
collections; fly tipping and pot holes. Residents can also check their
council tax balance on MyAccounts and find ‘MyNearest’ on their
personalised homepage. For information please go
to [1]www.sandwell.gov.uk/mysandwell.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.sandwell.gov.uk/mysandwell

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