Trees felled and tarmac rolled out on Grange Hill, West Kirby.

Alan Rundle made this Freedom of Information request to Wirral 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.

Waiting for an internal review by Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council of their handling of this request.

Dear Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council,

Many West Kirby residents are furious about Council-sponsored environmental damage done on Grange Hill, West Kirby, between 2012 an 16 January 2015.

Please provide copies of all emails, fax messages and letters, to
and from Council officer Dave Cowling, between 2008 and 16 January 2015, concerning Grange Hill, West Kirby.

Yours faithfully,

Alan Rundle

Corrin, Jane, Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Mr. Rundle,
Thank you for your request for information which has been facilitated under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 as it falls within the definition of ‘environmental information’, in that it relates to:

the state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites including wetlands, coastal and marine areas, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms, and the interaction among these elements (EIR R.2(a))

The Council can confirm that it does hold information which meets the parameters of your request and has given due consideration to R.12(4)(e) of the legislation. Please see further details below:-

Regulation 12.
(1) Subject to paragraphs (2), (3) and (9), a public authority may refuse to disclose environmental information requested if—
(a) an exception to disclosure applies under paragraphs (4) or (5); and
(b) in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

(4) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), a public authority may refuse to disclose information to the extent that
(e) the request involves the disclosure of internal communications.

As with all exceptions under EIR legislation, R.12(4)(e) is a qualified exception and is subject to the public interest test as set out in R.12(1)(b). It is a class-based (rather than prejudice-based), meaning that the sensitivity of the information does not need to be considered. The public interest factors for disclosure include the necessary opportunity for the authority to be accountable for their work to the public and how it utilises the public purse.

When involved in the decision making process, however, it is important that public authority officers are allowed an opportunity for the free and frank exchange of ideas. This enables all options to be considered prior to any formal publication or consultation. The public interest factors for withholding this information are to protect this very process. The ICO’s guidance states that ‘public interest arguments should be focussed on protecting the public authority’s private thinking space. Other arguments will not be relevant to this exception.’

The Council believes that If these internal communications were to be disclosed then officers may understandably be reluctant to fully engage in future conversations, as each aspect of these could be open to public examination. The outcome of this may well be that the discussion/s may not explore all possible options or give due consideration to pertinent issues. This would be to the detriment of the public at large.

The role of a public authority officer comes with a certain degree of autonomy within the parameters of the organisations stated policies and procedures. It would simply be impractical for all actions to be scrutinised by the public due to the adverse impact that this would have on the role they are employed to carry out, and would therefore constitute a misuse of public money.

The Council therefore believes that, due to the impact that disclosure would have on our ability to efficiently conduct public functions, the public interest for withholding the requested information outweighs that of disclosure.

External communications between the Council and members of the public are seen to be the personal information of the correspondents. This means data which relates to a living individual who can be identified from that data (Section 1(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998). I consider that there would have been no expectation on behalf of the data subjects that this information would be disclosed to a third party, and that the supply of the information requested would enable individuals to be identified.

I therefore consider that this part of your request is exempt information under R.12(3) of the Environmental Information Regulations. I consider that the disclosure of the requested information would contravene the first data protection principle, that personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully, and shall not be processed unless at least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 of the Act is met. I do not consider that any of the conditions in Schedule 2 would be met in this instance.

I have considered whether there is a legitimate public interest in disclosure and balanced this against the rights of the individuals. This is an absolute exemption and not subject to the public interest test.

I am therefore refusing your request for information under Regulations 12(4)(e) and 12(3) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. You have the right under R.11 of the legislation to make representations to the Council if it appears that the Regulations have not been adhered to. To do so, please contact [Wirral Borough Council request email] where it will be allocated for review.

If you are dissatisfied with this response to your review, you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner. The address is the Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF

Yours Sincerely
Jane Corrin
Information and Central Services Manager
Wirral Council

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Dear Wirral 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 Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Trees felled and tarmac rolled out on Grange Hill, West Kirby.'.

You are refusing my request for
information under Regulations of the
Environmental Information Regulations 2004".

I note that your response fails to draw my attention to the
requirements of the 'Convention on Access to Information, Public
Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in
Environmental Matters' (the Aarhus Convention).

Why did you not inform me of my rights to Access to Information
under the Aarhus Convention?

The United Kingdom is a Party to the Aarhus Convention an local
authorities are obliged to follow the requirements of the Aarhus

The UK has a dualistic legal system, in terms of environmental law.
UK (Domestic) environmental legislation is required to meet the
standards of International Law (the Aarhus Convention).

I expect Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council to provide the
information requested.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:

Yours faithfully,

Alan Rundle