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What can be requested under the Freedom of Information Act?

0 votes
A parish council is proceeding with a project costing over £100k that will enable a private tennis club which rents its site from the council to build two extra tennis courts on adjoining land which is also owned by the council and which has been used for allotments for nearly 50 years. The council is also intending to extend a public car park onto the rest of the allotment site. All of the allotments will relocated to a nearby unprepared site.   
All of the council meetings to discuss this project have been held 'in camera' and negotiations between the council and the tennis club have been carried out in secret for several months. The allotment holders have only just been informed of this project and told that they will be expected to relocate. They are furious at not being involved with this project sooner; consider that new tennis courts could be provided on the land to which they are to be relocated; and are mounting a protest campaign to stay where they are. It is claimed that the extended car park is not needed - other than the serve the new tennis courts.
There is a strong case that the council should have discussed this project entirely in public from the beginning. Are the allotment holders entitled now to request from the council all the agendas, minutes, and background papers related to this project and to see copies of all the documentation related to the council's negotiations with the tennis club and with its own lawyers and contractors who have produced plans for this project?
asked by (360 points)

4 Answers

0 votes
Any recorded information including, drafts, emails, notes taken, cctv recordings, recorded telephone conversations and all minutes of decision making council meetings. £100k seems a lot and it is assumed to be the cost of the project not what the PC is financing as they are the landlord and must have looked into how much the return to the council would make this a beneficial scheme to the community. Also why would the council make payments towards a business venture anyway?
As far as your allotment holders are concerned the council only has an obligation to meet the needs of the communities desire for allotments and as part of the "move" proposal they are in a good position to have their needs met regarding desirability of new or improved facilities and ground fertility as compensation. (new buildings, water supply, recycling facilities etc.).
So, higher income to the council and improved allotments to the community could be a win win situation looked at from a different informed perspective.
answered by (8.9k points)
0 votes
Sounds like a planning application would be required.
Don’t for one minute assume the PC have actually considered the need for a planning app. They are quite happy to cast (often poorly considered) comments on the applications of others but I’ve seen several examples of a PC failing to even recognise the requirement for a planning app for their own projects.
Get into them with an FoI / EIR and attend meetings (challenge the legitimacy of excluding the press & public) but if you can gather a head of speed amongst the community, comments of objection at the planning portal will not only have a good chance of swaying the planning decision but will also publicly humiliate the PC.
answered by (4.9k points)
0 votes
Has the council sought and obtained the necessary consent of the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government for the disposal of allotment land? A key precursor to such consent will be the council's evidence that it has conducted a full and open dialogue with the allotment holders and their objections will be considered by the Secretary of State during the application process. You may wish to pre-empt this by notifying the MHCLG of your concerns.

A change of use planning application will be required, providing you with an opportunity to object to the proposal.

Any contract with a value in excess of £25,000 must be advertised on the Government's Contracts Finder website, so keep an eye out for the publication of relevant contracts.

Finally, the Freedom of Information Act may allow you to access some information about the discussions between the two parties, but Section 43(2) provides an exemption for commercially-sensitive information, so if the documents include legal or financial information shared between the two parties, they may apply this exemption and refuse access.
answered by (32.8k points)
0 votes
What can be requested under the Freedom of Information Act?  Anything information the council holds in hard copy, electronic text, audio or video format.  The Council can only refuse to provide the information by citing a valid exemption as set out in the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
answered by (22.4k points)

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