North View Heights, Hungerford - grant applications and maintenance.

J A Giggins made this Freedom of Information request to Homes England

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 refused by Homes England.

Dear Homes and Communities Agency,

Following on from a previous request, I would be grateful if , under the provisions of the Environmental Information Regulations and/or the FOI Act, you could search your IMS system and email records for all information held on North View Heights ( also referred to as Northview Heights).

I am particularly ( but not exclusively) interested in

1 Applications for grant financing, whether successful or not,

2 Communications/complaints regarding the physical condition of the buildings together with 'decent homes' compliance declarations made to the HCA as regulator.

3 Notification of intention to demolish social/affordable housing stock.

Should this request be too wide in scope to be met under the provisions of the Acts I would be grateful for your advice and assistance in refining it.

Many thanks for your help.

Yours faithfully,

J A Giggins

Thank you for your enquiry.

 

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Homes and Communities Agency; Arpley House, 110 Birchwood Boulevard,
Birchwood, Warrington, WA3 7QH (reg.address for legal documents) 0300 1234
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J A Giggins left an annotation ()

The planning application to demolish the flats is still "awaiting decision" as per the West Berkshire Council planning portal, but there may soon be nothing left to demolish......

https://www.sovereign.org.uk/about-us/me...

Naomi McMaster,

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Giggins

 

Attached is acknowledgment of your recent request for information

 

Kind Regards,

Naomi

 

Naomi McMaster

Information and Complaints Officer

Homes and Communities Agency

Fry Building

2 Marsham Street

London

SW1P 4DF

020 78748288 ext.5288

Switchboard: 0300 1234 500

Please forward any Freedom Of Information Act or Environmental Information
Regulation requests to: [1][Homes and Communities Agency request email]

 

 

HELP SAVE NATURAL RESOURCES. THINK BEFORE PRINTING THIS EMAIL
Homes and Communities Agency; Arpley House, 110 Birchwood Boulevard,
Birchwood, Warrington, WA3 7QH (reg.address for legal documents) 0300 1234
500 [Homes and Communities Agency request email] VAT no: 941 6200 50

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Naomi McMaster,

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Giggins

 

Attached is a response to your request for information. Please confirm
receipt of this response. Many thanks.

 

Kind Regards,

Naomi

 

Naomi McMaster

Information and Complaints Officer

Homes and Communities Agency

Fry Building

2 Marsham Street

London

SW1P 4DF

020 78748288 ext.5288

Switchboard: 0300 1234 500

Please forward any Freedom Of Information Act or Environmental Information
Regulation requests to: [1][Homes and Communities Agency request email]

 

 

From: Naomi McMaster
Sent: 05 January 2015 14:12
To: '[FOI #246262 email]'
Subject: FOI000428 North View Heights

 

Dear Ms Giggins

 

Attached is acknowledgment of your recent request for information

 

Kind Regards,

Naomi

 

Naomi McMaster

Information and Complaints Officer

Homes and Communities Agency

Fry Building

2 Marsham Street

London

SW1P 4DF

020 78748288 ext.5288

Switchboard: 0300 1234 500

Please forward any Freedom Of Information Act or Environmental Information
Regulation requests to: [2][Homes and Communities Agency request email]

 

 

HELP SAVE NATURAL RESOURCES. THINK BEFORE PRINTING THIS EMAIL
Homes and Communities Agency; Arpley House, 110 Birchwood Boulevard,
Birchwood, Warrington, WA3 7QH (reg.address for legal documents) 0300 1234
500 [Homes and Communities Agency request email] VAT no: 941 6200 50

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Dear Homes and Communities Agency,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Homes and Communities Agency's handling of my FOI request 'North View Heights, Hungerford - grant applications and maintenance.'.

Firstly my general request for ALL information held on Northview Heights has been ignored. At the very least there should be some internal correspondence held relating to my previous request, and possibly external correspondence with Hungerford Town Council, West Berkshire Council, Sovereign Housing and Arlene Kersley, Rural Housing Enabler for Berkshire. It is also possible that you may have been contacted by my MP Richard Benyon.

With regard to my specific points of interest:

1 Applications for grant financing, whether successful or not.

I note that you have now located the grant application, but have provided neither explanation nor apology for your previous refusal ( upheld by internal review) as 'information not held'. In addition I asked for applications ( plural) as I think it is highly probable that Sovereign may have applied for funding under previous/other schemes run by the HCA. It is no secret that Sovereign has been looking to re-develop this site for some time ( over 10 years?).

I have also read your explanation regarding EIR 12(5)(d) 'Confidentiality of proceedings' and compared it to the Information Commissioner's Guidance on the same.

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

There seems to be considerable disparity between the guidance and the application of EIR 12 ( 5)(d) in this instance. I would draw your attention in particular to the fact that the adverse affect to the confidentiality of proceedings has to arise from statute or common law. The arguments put forward by the HCA in my opinion do not adequately address this issue - you just say that the information has the 'necessary quality of confidence'. I am assuming that there is no statutory bar on disclosure & you are therefore relying on common law, but it would be helpful if you could expand your explanation and explain the link to the confidentiality of the proceedings themselves.

Secondly whilst the Commissioner considers 'proceedings' can cover a range of activities, in para 8 of his guidance he says that it does not cover an authority's every action, decision or meeting.

Thirdly the exception can only apply if it is more probable than not that the adverse effect (on the confidentiality of proceedings) would occur. This does not seem to have been considered in your response other than in the public interest test, where the adverse affects are presented as 'could' rather than 'would'and in any case appear rather muddled and hypothetical. As such I can't see how the exemption applies even before consideration of the Public Interest Test.

With regard to the Public Interest Test, please refer to point 3 of the Overview in the Commissioner's guidance ( Page 2) the final sentence of which reads 'There is a presumption in favour of disclosure' and point 5 where he says that 'there is always a general public interest in disclosure and there may also be more specific arguments for disclosure depending on the circumstances. There are very specific arguments in favour of disclosure in this case, based on your previous denial ( upheld by internal review) that you held this information and that the application appears to be both against Minister's wishes and a waste of public funds given that the buildings to be demolished have been declared 'decent homes' compliant and would meet the identified needs of the local community. As detailed in your response disclosure would most certainly promote the accountability and transparency of the HCA and providing information about the application of public funds would definitely provide a basis for a more informed debate about the value for money being obtained by the HCA, and give the public (and maybe even Ministers) some understanding about how HCA investment decisions are made.

The arguments against disclosure are in my opinion rather weak, and not related to the exemption applied. Surely your investment criteria are sufficiently objective and robust to withstand scrutiny? How would ( not could) disclosure of an AHP 2015-18 bid prior to a decision being made affect the outcome 'due to outside influences' and how long will it be before you make a decision on this particular bid, which I understand was submitted around 6 months ago. How would ( not could) disclosure of a bid before a decision has been reached enable potential bidders to manipulate whether or not they receive funding in the future and how is this relevant to the confidentiality of the proceedings in question? How would ( not could) disclosure of this grant application (adversely) affect the way in which the HCA conducts its formal discussion on funding allocations and again what is the relevance to the confidentiality of the proceedings protected by law? Finally are bids really submitted to the HCA with implied confidence? I thought there was generally an acceptance that public tenders could not be automatically excluded from FOI/EIR but in any case the argument in this case is that 'to disclose this information would be unfair ( not unlawful) on the third party as it could ( not would) reveal information highlighting areas of weakness/strength which could be used by their competitors against them.' As Sovereign Housing Group dominate the affordable housing market in Hungerford, West Berkshire and to a lesser extent the South West of England and own the site in question, I cannot see how this argument applies, or how this would adversely affect the public interest.

2 Communications/complaints regarding the physical condition of the buildings together with 'decent homes' compliance declarations made to the HCA as regulator.

You say that the HCA 'does not record property or scheme addresses to which complaints are made about' but that is not the information I asked for and the search you made seems very random. Are you not able to perform an electronic search of the documents held within your complaints system using 'North View' heights & 'Northview Heights' as additional search criteria? If not, then please supply me with information regarding the number of complaints you hold against Sovereign Housing & categories that they are filed under, sufficient for me to refine my request for a manual search that is likely to produce the requested information without undue effort.

3 Notification of intention to demolish social/affordable housing stock.

Please could you confirm this response. Whilst RPs/Developers may not be required to give notification of their intention to demolish social/affordable housing stock ( a rather glaring gap in regulation/legislation) that doesn't mean you don't hold any information that would satisfy my request. In fact, given Minister's interest & nationwide publicity regarding demolition of social housing stock generally, I think it is highly probable that the HCA monitors this situation. I would certainly hope that it would be taken into account when deciding grant allocations. If provision of this information would prove too time consuming/onerous, please give me some assistance with refining the request.

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

Yours faithfully,

J A Giggins

Dear Naomi McMaster,

Please pass this further point on to the person conducting the internal review requested earlier today.

Apologies for omitting this from my earlier email, but should you decide to uphold the s 12 (5) (d) refusal,please give consideration to issuing redacted copies of documents so that the non-exempt information is disclosed, as per point 8 (page 2) of the Commissioner's overview of the exemption:

'Non-exempt information must be disclosed, unless it cannot be separated from exempt information'.

Many thanks

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Naomi McMaster,

I am away at meetings most of the day on 3 February 2015

 

 

 

Please forward any new Freedom Of Information Act or Environmental
Information Regulation requests to: [Homes and Communities Agency request email].

 

 

 

HELP SAVE NATURAL RESOURCES. THINK BEFORE PRINTING THIS EMAIL
Homes and Communities Agency; Arpley House, 110 Birchwood Boulevard,
Birchwood, Warrington, WA3 7QH (reg.address for legal documents) 0300 1234
500 [Homes and Communities Agency request email] VAT no: 941 6200 50

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Robert Bean,

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Giggins,

 

Attached is acknowledgement of your request for an Internal Review of
FOI000428.

 

Kind regards,

 

Robert

 

Robert Bean | Legal Assistant

Homes and Communities Agency | Woodlands, Manton Lane, Bedford, MK41 7LW
| Tel: 01234 242593

 

Please forward any Freedom Of Information Act or Environmental Information
Regulation requests to: [1][Homes and Communities Agency request email]

 

HELP SAVE NATURAL RESOURCES. THINK BEFORE PRINTING THIS EMAIL
Homes and Communities Agency; Arpley House, 110 Birchwood Boulevard,
Birchwood, Warrington, WA3 7QH (reg.address for legal documents) 0300 1234
500 [Homes and Communities Agency request email] VAT no: 941 6200 50

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Dear Robert Bean,

Many thanks for your acknowledgement of my internal review request.

As you have said 'Please note that the person conducting this Internal Review is completely independent of the original request.' I thought it might help if I provided the link to the 'previous' request detailed in my request for review ( and indeed in the original request)

The request, response and internal review of that request can be found on the whatdotheyknow.com website here:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2...

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Robert Bean,

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Giggins,

 

Attached is a response to your request for an Internal Review of
FOI000428.

 

Kind regards,

 

Robert

 

Robert Bean | Legal Assistant

Homes and Communities Agency | Woodlands, Manton Lane, Bedford, MK41 7LW
| Tel: 01234 242593

 

Please forward any Freedom Of Information Act or Environmental Information
Regulation requests to: [1][Homes and Communities Agency request email]

 

HELP SAVE NATURAL RESOURCES. THINK BEFORE PRINTING THIS EMAIL
Homes and Communities Agency; Arpley House, 110 Birchwood Boulevard,
Birchwood, Warrington, WA3 7QH (reg.address for legal documents) 0300 1234
500 [Homes and Communities Agency request email] VAT no: 941 6200 50

show quoted sections

Dear Robert Bean,

Many thanks for passing on Ms Bayley's internal review. Please could you pass on this message back to her.

Dear Ms Bayley,

Many thanks for your internal review and for the explanations and apologies contained therein. It will take some time to digest and decide whether to refer the continued refusal on to the Information Commissioner, but there is one point that stands out as having not been addressed which is consideration of disclosure of redacted copies of the information identified in the original response, and the further information identified in the internal review (namely the two grant applications) but withheld in reliance on s12(5)(d).

I drew attention to this EIR requirement via a separate email after making my internal review request.The email is on this website and was sent to Naomi McMaster
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/n...

For ease of reference I have also copied it in below;

"From: J A Giggins

3 February 2015

Dear Naomi McMaster,

Please pass this further point on to the person conducting the
internal review requested earlier today.

Apologies for omitting this from my earlier email, but should you
decide to uphold the s 12 (5) (d) refusal,please give consideration
to issuing redacted copies of documents so that the non-exempt
information is disclosed, as per point 8 (page 2) of the
Commissioner's overview of the exemption:

'Non-exempt information must be disclosed, unless it cannot be
separated from exempt information'.

Many thanks."

I would be grateful if you could check with Ms Bayley that she received this further email.

Meanwhile I will raise a further refined and more specific request.

Many thanks.

Yours sincerely,

J A Giggins

Robert Bean,

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Giggins,

Please see attached letter in response to your previous email.

Kind regards,

Robert

Robert Bean | Legal Assistant
Homes and Communities Agency | Woodlands, Manton Lane, Bedford, MK41 7LW | Tel: 01234 242593

Please forward any Freedom Of Information Act or Environmental Information Regulation requests to: [Homes and Communities Agency request email]

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J A Giggins left an annotation ()

Follow on request

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

Funding WAS allocated despite demolition of bed sits/flats previously self certified as meeting the decent homes standard and replacement by a lesser number of units.