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Public consultation strategy for mass regeneration of Kingston Borough

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Dear Greater London Authority,

Please can you send me the Public Consultation Strategy referred to in document ADD2026, Kingston Town Centre OAPF, dated 19 October 2016:

"3.2 Given the regeneration focus of the proposed project, identification of relevant equalities groups and potentially vulnerable locally affected populations has been undertaken at the outset of the project. Population data is available for this purpose such as indices of deprivation used to identify regeneration areas in the London Plan. A detailed public consultation strategy has been drawn up in consultation with RBK to ensure that any local hard to reach groups are engaged in the process to ensure that resulting document is appropriate and accessible to all and meets the needs of different Londoners."

Yours faithfully,

Caroline Scott

Greater London Authority

    From: [FOI #576318 email]
    To: [Greater London Authority request email]
    Subject: Freedom of Information request - Public consultation strategy
for mass regeneration of Kingston Borough

Thank you for contacting us about the work of the Mayor and/or City Hall.

 

We aim to respond to written communication as quickly as possible and
within 20 working days.

 

However, please note that we may not reply to correspondence we consider:

• Is addressed to another party and where the Mayor has been copied-in for
information only.
• Contains comments that do not require a response.
• Includes unsolicited job applications or CVs.
• Is trying to sell or market a product.
• To be vexatious or contains abusive or discriminatory language.

 

In addition, we will not respond where we specifically state that we are
unable to enter into correspondence (for example, when inviting responses
to consultation documents).

 

If you have written to request the release of information under the
Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) or Environmental Information Regulations
(EIR), please take this message as confirmation your request has been
received. We will aim to provide a response within the statutory 20
working day deadline.
Further information on our service standards, is available on our website
at: [1]http://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/contac....

 

Thank you again for writing.

 

Yours sincerely,
Public Liaison Unit

References

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1. http://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/contac...

Mayor of London, Greater London Authority

Dear Ms Scott

In relation to this request, I refer you to our response of 3 June 2019
(ref MGLA090519-2298)

Yours sincerely

Paul Robinson
Information Governance Officer

Dear Greater London Authority,

Please can you send me the Public Consultation Strategy referred to in
document ADD2026, Kingston Town Centre OAPF, dated 19 October 2016:

"3.2 Given the regeneration focus of the proposed project, identification
of relevant equalities groups and potentially vulnerable locally affected
populations has been undertaken at the outset of the project. Population
data is available for this purpose such as indices of deprivation used to
identify regeneration areas in the London Plan. A detailed public
consultation strategy has been drawn up in consultation with RBK to ensure
that any local hard to reach groups are engaged in the process to ensure
that resulting document is appropriate and accessible to all and meets the
needs of different Londoners. "

Yours faithfully,

Caroline Scott

-------------------------------------------------------------------

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References

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Dear Greater London Authority,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Greater London Authority's handling of my FOI request 'Public consultation strategy for mass regeneration of Kingston Borough'.

Dear Greater London Authority,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Greater London Authority's handling of my FOI request 'Initial information relating to the Adoption Report for KIngston's Direction of Travel'.

Dear Greater London Authority,
Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Greater London Authority (the “GLA”)'s handling of my Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA 2000”) request 'Initial information relating to the Adoption Report for Kingston's Direction of Travel' and all FOIA 2000 requests from me that you have refused, including: MGLA090519-2298, MGLA140519-2432, MGLA140519-2432, MGLA130519-2493, MGLA130519-2496, MGLA150519-2642, MGLA200519-2964, MGLA230519-3295. MGLA290519-3660. MGLA310519-3742, MGLA200519-2991, MGLA200519-2992 and MGLA210519-3092 and MGLA230519-3295.
All of the above requests have been refused on the basis that you claim that they are manifestly unreasonable on the grounds of being vexatious and on the basis that the cost of responding to them is too great.

Can I start by drawing your attention to the fact that you made no attempt, before refusing the above requests on the basis that you consider them to be “manifestly unreasonable on the grounds of being vexatious” - to understand the importance of the matter that forms the basis of the requests and whether that matter is in pursuit of a legitimate concern that is in the public interest?

After reading this response, I trust that you will have the evidence you require that the information I have been seeking, and which I continue to attempt to acquire, is of value not only to me but to the public in general and a wide section of the public.

Indeed, I am making great personal attempts to share information I acquire in a timely way with the public. I am doing so in order to help people understand the way in which decisions are being made by public authorities in London about critically important matters that might affect all Londoners and in order to enable the residents of Kingston in particular to give informed and intelligent responses to consultations in which they have a direct interest and involvement and which are currently taking place.

To this end, I have been posting my findings and analysis on a website that is available to the public and will shortly publish a timeline of GLA and Kingston Council decisions and actions relating to the matters that have driven my requests for information under the FOIA 2000. I have also shared information with both MPs for Kingston.

Further, in your letter informing me of your refusal to publish the requested information under the FOIA 2000, you did not make any attempt whatsoever to offer me advice or assistance so that you might truly understand whether the requests are indeed “manifestly unreasonable on the grounds of being vexatious” or whether there is justification for the requests. The offer of such advice and assistance is required by the FOIA 2000 16 (1):
“It shall be the duty of a public authority to provide advice and assistance, so far as it would be reasonable to expect the authority to do so”.

Had you offered me advice and assistance, you would have given me the opportunity to explain to you the serious motivations for my requests, I could have explained the critical timing of the need for information which resulted in multiple requests in a short period of time. I could also have explained that, in at least one case, a further FOIA 2000 request was made because the wrong information was provided and, in others, because I realised that I had received information of value but that I needed additional information to clarify the important matter under investigation. The seriousness and magnitude of the consequences of decisions that have been made and are currently being made by the GLA and Kingston Council and to which information I have been seeking relates, in my opinion, more than justifies the volume, frequency and in some cases overlapping nature of the requests as well as the burden that you perceive these requests have placed upon the authority.

In addition, I believe that your refusal letter does not conform with Regulation 14 (5) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (“EIR2004”) which states that:
“The refusal shall inform the applicant
a. That he may make representations to the public authority under regulation 11 and
b. Of the enforcement and appeal provisions of the Act applied by Regulation 18.”

I can find no such notification in the letter that you have sent me.

Moving on to whether the FOIA 2000 requests that are the subject of this letter meet the criteria for being vexatious or manifestly unreasonable, I assert that in the case of the Information Commissioner vs Devon County Council & Dransfield 2012 (“DCCvsD”), that the key point to consider is one of proportionality and justification. Paragraph 68 of the Court of Appeal Ruling states clearly that:
“…the emphasis should be on an objective standard and that the starting point is that vexatiousness primarily involves making a request which has no reasonable foundation, that is, no reasonable foundation for thinking that the information sought would be of value to the requester or to the public or any section of the public.”

I assert that the information I have requested has a clearly reasonable foundation in that I am using it to form a coherent, considered and objective picture of the soundness of decisions that have been made by the GLA and Kingston Council about future growth in the Borough which I wish to communicate to residents of the Borough and the wider public who have a direct interest in knowing that decisions are being made soundly and democratically by our public authorities. On the same basis, the information requested has significant value, not only to me, but to the public and a section of the public who will understand better the basis of information being presented to them about planned growth in London, be better informed and be better able to respond intelligently to consultations about growth in their local areas. Both the foundation for the requests and the value that it brings both support an argument that the requests are justified. Given the large number of people who are potentially affected by decisions made by the GLA and London Boroughs relating to planning matters, I also assert that the requests made are certainly within the limits of being considered “proportionate” to the seriousness of the matter about which they request information. While I recognise that there is a cost to the GLA of responding to my FOIA requests, I believe that the cost is justified by the significant public interest in the information being sought.

As a result of decisions that have been made that relate to the FOIA 2000 requests in question, there are plans to almost double the number of homes in the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames in just 22 years and to accommodate a vast number of new people, many times in excess of our Borough’s forecast population. With growth plans on this scale targeted in Kingston and also at many other London Boroughs, it is critical that the public has confidence that its authorities have acted and made decisions in a sound and democratic way. The information I am seeking will help create the transparency that the public needs about the way its public authorities are making decisions on our behalf.

Information I have gathered to-date strongly indicates that decision-making may not have been sound or democratic and I have requested further information in order to ensure that the conclusions I reach, and the evidence on which such conclusions are based, are as robust and clear as possible before I share them with other Kingston residents and the wider public.

Please also note that the draft new London Plan is at a critical point as the Inspectors of the Examination in Public are currently deliberating on its soundness, including on Boroughs’ housing targets, CrossRail 2 targets and opportunity areas, all of which apply to Kingston. In addition, Kingston Council is consulting on its Local Plan between 1 May 2019 and 31 July 2019 and the information I am seeking is needed within this timeframe to help inform residents’ and other interested stakeholders’ response to that consultation.
I believe that these facts provide very strong “relevant circumstances” as stated in DCCvsD to support a balanced conclusion that the FOIA 2000 requests are not vexatious or manifestly unreasonable but that it is critical that they receive a response.

Please note that my requests are not part of any campaign and that I am not a member of any political group. I am a member of the public and a resident of Kingston.

Provision 12 (1) b of the EIR2004 states that:
"12.—(1) Subject to paragraphs (2), (3) and (9), a public authority may refuse to disclose environmental information requested if—
(b)in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information."

I assert that there can be no public interest in maintaining your exception to disclose the requested information because in so doing you would prevent much needed transparency about key actions and decisions that have been made by the GLA and Kingston Council that will affect the lives of all 167,000 residents of the Borough. Disclosure of the requested information also responds to the requirement for public authorities to be accountable to the public. The way decisions have been made - and to which the information requested relates - could be relevant to similar decisions that have been made across London and which could therefore affect millions of people living in the Greater London area.

To the extent that you assert that it is not in the public interest to “deal with one particular campaign of requests”, I strongly deny that my requests form any kind of campaign. They are driven solely by the desire to verify the soundness of the basis of decision-making by our local authorities, to ensure that my conclusions are evidence-based and to share that information publicly.

I refute your assertion that my requests merely relate to a “private matter of importance to an individual”.

As I have explained above, the matter that is the subject of my requests for information is one of wide public interest, affecting people in Kingston and across Greater London. The reason why I submitted my requests via WhatDoTheyKnow.com reflects my desire to share the information obtained as widely as possible with the wider public. I believe that, at the very least, many residents in Kingston have been reading the information that I have obtained through my requests. I provide a link to the information obtained from my requests on my website to facilitate access.

I assert that the FOIA 2000 requests you have refused are not manifestly unreasonable for all the reasons stated and, as such, that any strain that they place on GLA resources is strongly justified by the public value that publication of the information will bring.

In this context, and to quote from your letter to me, I believe that I have provided sufficient evidence to show that the FOIA 2000 requests that are subject to your current refusal are “requests in pursuit of legitimate concerns on issues of significance” and I request that you immediately disclose the information requested.

Yours faithfully,

Caroline Scott

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

Greater London Authority

    From: [FOI #576318 email]
    To: [Greater London Authority request email]
    Subject: Internal review of Freedom of Information request - Public
consultation strategy for mass regeneration of Kingston Borough

Thank you for contacting us about the work of the Mayor and/or City Hall.

 

We aim to respond to written communication as quickly as possible and
within 20 working days.

 

However, please note that we may not reply to correspondence we consider:

• Is addressed to another party and where the Mayor has been copied-in for
information only.
• Contains comments that do not require a response.
• Includes unsolicited job applications or CVs.
• Is trying to sell or market a product.
• To be vexatious or contains abusive or discriminatory language.

 

In addition, we will not respond where we specifically state that we are
unable to enter into correspondence (for example, when inviting responses
to consultation documents).

 

If you have written to request the release of information under the
Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) or Environmental Information Regulations
(EIR), please take this message as confirmation your request has been
received. We will aim to provide a response within the statutory 20
working day deadline.
Further information on our service standards, is available on our website
at: [1]http://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/contac....

 

Thank you again for writing.

 

Yours sincerely,
Public Liaison Unit

References

Visible links
1. http://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/contac...

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