Recording of 3256190: 700 and 762 St Johns Road and St Johns Nursery site, Earls Hall Road, Clacton on Sea

The request was refused by Planning Inspectorate.

Dear Planning Inspectorate,

Please deal with this call for data as a Freedom of Information Act request in the first instance.

I would like to be provided with the digital recording of the above appeal in a format I can view on an Apple MacBook. If it helps I have access to Microsoft Teams which you live streamed the event on.

Thanking you in advance

Yours faithfully,

Richard Everett

PINS FOI Requests, Planning Inspectorate

Your email has been received by the Planning Inspectorate's Freedom of
Information team. We will log and allocate any request and may be in touch
if we need further information.  Although we aim to answer requests within
the statutory 20 working day time limit, due to the current disruption in
normal business as a result of the Covid pandemic, our ability to do so
has been affected.

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References

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Thorne, Jo, Planning Inspectorate

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Everett

 

Thank you for your email of 9 December requesting a copy of the recording
of the virtual inquiry for the above-referenced appeal.

 

Your request, relating to a planning appeal, is considered to be for
environmental information and falls for consideration under the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR – and available from
[1]https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2004...). We hold a
copy of the recorded virtual event.

 

In accordance with regulation 12(1) and 12(2) of the EIR, public
authorities may refuse to disclose information where an exception to
disclosure applies and where the public interest for withholding the
information exceeds that for disclosure.

 

Regulation 12(4)(b) of the EIR allows a public authority to refuse a
request where that request is manifestly unreasonable.  In this case we do
not contend that your request is unreasonable in context or content, but
the exception does also cover situations where the diversion of resources
from other priority tasks is considered unreasonable, as well as where the
cost to the public authority is considered unreasonable.

 

In this case, virtual events for planning casework has been quickly
implemented in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, with the priority to
keep casework moving and support economic recovery.  Further information
is available from
[2]https://www.gov.uk/government/news/virtu...

 

Although in some instances we record virtual events our privacy notice
makes clear this is primarily for internal use only – as below:

 

Recording /Live Streaming of Events hosted in PINS

 

o The Planning Inspectorate will sometimes be required to record or live
stream an event, especially if it is of significant public interest
and to ensure access to & fairness of the process.
o The recordings will be used for training & awareness in the first
instance as well as for responding to potential challenge.
o Any Live Streams will be used to ensure public access to process and
will be streamed using Planning Inspectorate approved software to the
Planning Inspectorate approved hosting environment (YouTube for non
National Infrastructure Events or the National Infrastructure Portal).
o The Planning Inspectorate is the sole Data Controller for these
events.

 

On that basis, whilst the project team implementing virtual events does
have the ability to record virtual events they do not currently have the
software to:

 1. Undertake redactions of names and images of those taking part in a
virtual event;
 2. Extract sections of recordings;
 3. Convert the video recording to sound recording only.

With regard to your request, we would need to identify, procure, install
and test the relevant software (requiring specialist digital and
commercial skills), and then dedicate resource to train in its use to
extract and redact the relevant segment (although the information provided
by the Councillor may not require redaction, the recording includes others
either participating or simply observing the event).  We estimate these
costs to include licensing costs of circa £300, 3 hours of specialist IT
resource, 5 hours of integration testing plus a further 4 hours+ to
undertake training, locate the extract and undertake redactions such that
your request would cost over £600 in direct and staffing costs to fulfil.

 

Whilst we recognise the obligation on us to undertake this work and make
environmental information proactively publicly available (or on request),
our resources have been significantly stretched by the pandemic such that
we are not yet at a stage where we have been able to prioritise this for
virtual events whilst at the same time keeping our casework moving.  We
therefore consider that the cost and diversion of resources required to
answer your request to be manifestly unreasonable at this time.

 

With regard to the public interest consideration, as above the priority in
these exceptional times is considered to keep casework moving.  Although
we recognise that there is public interest in making planning information
publicly available, the fact remains that any party can attend a virtual
event (as they could previously attend a ‘live’ hearing or inquiry), hear
the evidence as it is presented and make their own notes.  Copies of the
written appeal evidence is also made publicly available.  On that basis,
we consider that the public interest in diverting scarce resources to
answer your request is currently outweighed by the need to continue
focussing resources on live casework activities.          

 

If you have any queries as a result of this response please let me know. 
Details of our review procedures are also attached.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Jo Thorne

Customer Team Officer

Putting the customer at the heart of everything we do.

Email: [3][email address]  

Complaints line: 0303 444 5884

 

Twitter: @PINSgov
Web: [4]www.gov.uk/government/organisations/planning-inspectorate

 

This communication does not constitute legal advice. Please view our
Information Charter before sending information to the Planning
Inspectorate.

 

 

[5]Coronavirus advice image with text saying Hands, Face, Space

Please note that the contents of this email and any attachments are
privileged and/or confidential and intended solely for the use of the
intended recipient. If you are not the intended recipient of this email
and its attachments, you must take no action based upon them, nor must you
copy or show them to anyone. Please contact the sender if you believe you
have received this email in error and then delete this email from your
system.

Recipients should note that e-mail traffic on Planning Inspectorate
systems is subject to monitoring, recording and auditing to secure the
effective operation of the system and for other lawful purposes. The
Planning Inspectorate has taken steps to keep this e-mail and any
attachments free from viruses. It accepts no liability for any loss or
damage caused as a result of any virus being passed on. It is the
responsibility of the recipient to perform all necessary checks.

The statements expressed in this e-mail are personal and do not
necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the Inspectorate.

DPC:76616c646f72

[6]Environmental advice image with text saying please consider the
environment before printing this email

References

Visible links
1. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2004...
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/virtu...
3. mailto:[email address]
4. http://www.gov.uk/government/organisatio...

Dear Planning Inspectorate,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Planning Inspectorate's handling of my FOI request 'Recording of 3256190: 700 and 762 St Johns Road and St Johns Nursery site, Earls Hall Road, Clacton on Sea'.

Firstly a matter of fact - you refer to 'councillor' in your response. As was expressed at the enquiry I am not a councillor any longer and have not been one for nearly 2 years now. I would be grateful if you could update your records accordingly. (This erroneous expression has in fact directly lead to a separate DSAR request to check other data incorrectly held by the Inspectorate).

Turning to this FOI/EIR request the use of the 'COVID excuse' is not I believe reasonable as a long term response. In these circumstances I am happy to wait until you have put in the necessary facilities to edit your recordings. Please let me know when this facility has been actioned. Do you expect me to resubmit my request or will you keep it on the books for action subsequently.

Notwithstanding the above in relation to the expressed and implied reasons for refusal under 'normal' FOI/EIR legislation I do not accept that their is any need to undertake this editing because the recordings are made with the express stipulation to all participants that the process is fully public and all documents data etc are made public by the process.

Finally I am aware of the FOI/EIR rules and no attempt has been made to ascertain whether a reframing of the request could allow the cost ceiling to be achieved.

I do believe that with a collective will from the inspectorate it would not be difficult to find a way to respond to this request in a positive manner and I await your proposals for doing so.

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

Yours faithfully,

Richard Everett

Long, Martin, Planning Inspectorate

Dear Mr Everett

Thank you for your email below. As requested, I have undertaken an internal review of the response to your request for information, and this email provides the outcome of that.

Firstly, I apologise for the reference to 'councillor', and the wider section of our initial response regarding providing you with a specific extract. This was a drafting error and unconnected to any previous correspondence or discussion with you regarding your status.

With regard to providing any advice and assistance in respect of your original request, that request was clearly for a digital copy of the entire recording of the inquiry ( a 4 day event) and there is limited information that we could have provided, given the information that you requested and the reasons why your request was considered to be manifestly unreasonable, that could have helped you reduce the scale of your request to one that we may be able to answer. Should you not actually require a copy of the entire event, but instead require just a very small and distinct extract that we may be able to readily locate and manually transcribe, then we may be able to calculate the costs to us on a different basis - but the refusal was otherwise clear that we do not have the technology in place to undertake redactions, and that our business resources are already stretched on operational tasks as a result of the current covid pandemic. I therefore do not criticise our original response for reasonably considering that this would not have been appropriate in these circumstances.

Reviewing the reason for refusal in this case, I acknowledge that inquiries are public events, which anyone can attend and, with the Inspector's permission, also participate in (as it appears that you did for this event). As you note, copies of written representations submitted on an appeal determined via the inquiry procedure are also typically made publicly available - with statutory provision that places this obligation on the local planning authority. I also acknowledge that, subject to consideration of any individual participant concerns expressed at that time, individuals may make their own recording for their own personal use or journalistic purposes. However, the purpose of our own recording of virtual events is, as stated in our privacy notice, for our own internal purposes (with the Inspector announcing that the recording will not be publicly released in this case) and there was no such request made by you or others to record the hearing that could have resolved issues at that point in time. There is also no statutory requirement on us, or any other person, to make these recordings publicly available as part of the planning process and we are not in the position where we can provide public copies without further considering the data protection implications for those who participated in, or attended the event.

With regard to our reason for refusal, it is true that the project to introduce Virtual Events was required to deliver in a short deadline, and that we do not currently have the software or processes in place to undertake redactions of personal data on these recordings. Business resources are also stretched at this time, and we do not have resources to contact everyone involved in the event for their preferences of public disclosure, nor the software and resources to then run through a copy of the entire recording to implement those preferences. As such, I concur with the definition and estimate of resources required in order to answer your request, only additionally noting that it may be a conservative estimate for a 4-day inquiry given we may need to review the whole of the recording before being confident that the contents can be made publicly available.

Turning to the public interest, I agree that there is a public interest in transparency in planning decision making, and this is made clear in our privacy notice and the statutory provisions. Anyone can attend an inquiry, listen to the evidence as it is presented and also participate. I also acknowledge that the planning process allows anyone interested in the case to access the written representations, such that they may actively participate in the case - either through provision of a written representation or an oral representation at the inquiry itself However, the specific question in this case is whether there is a public interest in retrospectively providing public access to a copy of this particular recording (which was made for internal purposes only); and it is not clear from your request or review why there is any particular planning need, or wider public interest consideration, in making this recording publicly available at the expense of diverting our scarce operational resources from their statutory purposes to provide this at this point time (as opposed to any private interest that you may have). This decision has to recognise the current realities of the Covid situation, including the need to keep casework progressing and our introducing of virtual events as quickly as practical (which does mean that consideration of costs and benefits of publishing copies of recordings is secondary to the need to implement the ability to determine cases in an on-line environment). In these circumstance, I agree with our original response, and that the public interest in protecting our resources in this case, significantly outweighs the limited public interest in disclosure for this individual inquiry.

Finally, I note your willingness to wait until we are in a position to more routinely release copies of events. In that regard, neither the Freedom of Information Act nor Environmental Information Regulations require us to store up requests for some future date (as opposed to respond to them on the facts and circumstances that apply at the time a request is made). In that regard, I cannot offer a service of reconsidering your request at a later date, nor am I required to determine what the outcome may be in respect of any future request (although I note that we may still need to review the whole of the recording before release). I can only suggest that you make a future request, or perhaps general enquiry to see if the technology position has changed, possibly on a quarterly basis.

Having completed our internal review, should you remain dissatisfied with our decision then your means of escalation are now to the ICO - further information and contact details are on their website - www.ico.org.uk.

Yours sincerely

Martin Long
Customer Team Manager

Putting the customer at the heart of everything we do.
Email: [email address]
Complaints line: 0303 444 5884

twitter: @PINSgov
This communication does not constitute legal advice. Please view our Information Charter before sending information to the Planning Inspectorate.

show quoted sections

Dear Long, Martin,

Further to your internal review I would like to make you aware that the guidance from the ICO quite clearly indicates that you will be able to support the application of regulation 12(4)(b) with evidence. What you have provided to me does not do so however I do understand you are not required at this present juncture to publish the same. I would however point out that you will be required to do so by the ICO when this is escalated to them. I also believe that the public interest in disclosure will be proven to outweigh the minimal costs of complying with the request.

I will be challenging this regulation 12(4)(b) exception and making a complaint to the ICO.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Everett

Richard Everett left an annotation ()

This request has been referred to the ICO who have accepted it as being valid but have yet to allocate a case officer. Currently time for allocation is about 3 months.