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SALFORD COUNCIL TAKES ON INFORMATION COMMISSIONER OVER WALKDEN OPEN SPACE SELL OFF
 

Star date: 15th December 2015

SALFORD COUNCIL ARROGANCE IN THE FACE OF NUMEROUS FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BREACHES

Salford City Council is determined to keep secret details of its dealings with developer Redwaters which wants to build sixty houses on Hill Top Moss open space land in Walkden.

Last month the Information Commissioner ruled that Salford Council had breached the Freedom of Information Act three times and ordered it to disclose information or it could possibly be in contempt of court. But rather than comply, the Council has appealed and a tribunal will hear the case in the New Year.

Full details here...


Residents fighting Salford City Council's proposals to sell off open space land at Hill Top Moss, part of Blackleach Country Park, have faced over a year's worth of fobbing off over the release of information relating to the secret deal.

The Council wants to flog the land to developer Redwaters which plans to build sixty houses on the Moss, one of the highest points in Salford with stunning views over the city.

Back in August 2014, a local resident applied under the Freedom of Information Act for the disclosure of all correspondence between the Council and Redwaters relating to the land deal. The Council completely ignored the request. It took six months, and the involvement of the Information Commissioner, before any kind of response was received.

Within this response, in February 2015, some information was sent but whole documents were withheld, while the Council cited Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) exceptions, arguing that the information was `confidential' etc etc...

The commissioner ordered the Council to carry out an internal review which was due by 31st Marchbut the Council didn't comply until 20th May, when twelve more documents were released with redactions (see previous Salford Star article which takes the story up to this point – click here).

Residents were convinced that Salford Council was still withholding documents – and their hunch was correct, as, in the latest decision by the Information Commissioner on 2nd November, it's revealed that the Council actually withheld 29 PDFs!

While agreeing in part with some of the Council's reasoning for withholding information, the Commissioner ordered the vast majority of documents to be released – with a damning indictment attached...

"The Council breached regulation 5(2) of the EIR by failing to provide the requested information within 20 working days, and regulation 14(2) by failing to issue a refusal notice within 20 working days. It also breached regulation 11 by failing to carry out an internal review until requested to do so by the Commissioner...

 "The Commissioner finds it particularly disappointing that the Council breached the statutory time limits in respect of responding to the requests, and to carrying out an internal review, because the Council was being monitored by the Commissioner for noncompliance with time limits in its handling of requests from February to April 2015" he added*

"The Commissioner has made a record of this delay and the Council's failure to carry out a timely internal review in this case" he stated "This may form evidence in future enforcement action against the Council should evidence from other cases suggest that there are systemic issues that are causing delays/failure to carry out internal reviews."

He told the Council to comply with the law within 35 calendar days or it "may result in the Commissioner making written certification of this fact to the High Court pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court."

Instead, Salford Council has appealed the ruling and it will go to a tribunal in the New Year...

The whole episode of Hill Top Moss illustrates the arrogance of Salford City Council, both towards other authorities and its own residents. What was it that Salford City Mayor Ian Stewart promised on his election in 2012...

"We as a Council must be more open and transparent with the public..."


To read the full decision notice from the Information Commissioner - click here

See also previous Salford Star articles...

* Commissioner Monitors Salford Council's Abysmal Freedom of Information Record - click here

Blackleach Country Park Sell Off Horror - click here

shirley jones wrote
at 14:40:44 on 18 December 2015
No we're not going away and will continue to fight what we know to be wrong, despite the very serious threats made against me and damage to our property which may possibly be connected and despite the recent devastation caused to the public open space land that we are trying to protect. Clearly Salford Council have a great deal that they do not want us to see. What is concerning, is why they are so desperate for us to not see this information that the law says we should. The fight for information denied to us and to protect a vital area of public open space land, that councils own documents agree is part of Blackleach Country Park , continues......
 
white wrote
at 14:15:58 on 16 December 2015
Perhaps the Prisoner's experience highlight sthe methods they use. If they keep things dragging on for long enough, people will just get fed up and go away.
 
Prisoner Irlam wrote
at 05:52:31 on 16 December 2015
Gave me the run around for years over an environmental issue concerning property , i got shut of it years ago less hassle than dealing with the Arrogance of the Elected and the council disgusted !!!!!
 
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