After a series of communications between me the council’s chief executive and the council’s senior legal officer, I have achieved a situation where a bit more of the documentation is in the public domain. This is what they sent me:
This one is called by the council “Pleasurama Unredacted Information”
And this one “Pleasurama Redacted Information”
My request to the council was for them to send me a list of all the documents the council hold on The Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama Site in Ramsgate, that they wouldn’t send me and for them to send me everything they hold that they were now prepared to release under foi legislation.
What I actually got was the pdf files, links above and the following email.
“Ref No: 48746 / 2328573
Dear Mr. Child
Thank you for your information request received on 25 February 2013 where you requested information held by the Council concerning the former Pleasurama site in Ramsgate.
I confirm that the Council holds information relevant to your request. However it declines to provide all of that information to you for the following reasons:
1. Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 authorises the Council to withhold information that is available to the requestor by other means. For example, the Planning application files relating to the Pleasurama site are public documents that may be inspected at the Gateway in Margate during normal Council office opening hours. However, I have nevertheless included a partial transcript of the Council meeting of 5 December 2002 together with some other information relating to a presentation given by the developer to the Council, all of which I recovered from the Planning file. In addition, all the open reports since 2003 concerning the Pleasurama site are available on the Council's web site via the Modern Gov Committee System.
2. Section 41 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Some information has either been redacted from the information now disclosed or withheld in its entirety as the Council remains under an enforceable duty of confidence in respect of it. This is an absolute exemption, meaning that the Council is not required to consider the public interest in deciding whether or not to withhold the information.
3 Section 42 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 - A sub-paragraph in an exempt report that I have concluded can now enter the public domain has been redacted due to legal professional privilege. However, Section 42 is a qualified exemption subject to a public interest test. In this regard, it is my decision that the public interest lies in witholding this information. This is because the courts have recognised that there is a substantial public interest in the maintenance of legal professional privilege which I consider outweights any competing public interest in disclosure.
4. Finally, I have not enclosed copies of the Development Agreement as these have already been disclosed to you.
Subject to these exceptions, the information that the Council is able to disclose is attached to this e-mail in electronic form.
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: Information Request Assessor, Thanet District Council, P O Box 9 Cecil Street, Margate Kent CT9 1XZ, or send an email to email@example.com.
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Corporate & Regulatory Services Manager”
This leaves me with. Yes. A bit more information, but also leaves me with the problem I had before, which is that I have quite a lot of documentary information about this development that I haven’t published because I assume it is information that the council hold on their restricted list and that publishing it would contravene their rules.
An example of this is the pdf file the council call “Pleasurama Redacted Information” now anyone looking at this for the first time would assume that the bits the council won’t let you read, are the bits they have blacked out and these are the only bits missing, however I have the original document and it may surprise readers to hear that apart from the blacked out bits about half the pages are also missing.
This type of communication with the council is bizarre enough anyway, because they get 20 working days to fulfil foi requests, which in practice means a month. If you ask them what is going on before the month is up, if they reply at all it is to tell you that they still have more time. If you ask them after the month is up, at best you get a reply saying they are sorry the documents are late….. I have the whole sorry correspondence and will forbear publishing it.
I guess most people will realise that communicating with someone where it takes a month to get any sort of useful reply is a bit of a dispiriting business.
I will endeavour to add a bit to this post, when I have had a chance to have a proper look at the documents they have sent me.
Starting with the first document (unredacted) the presentation on the Pleasurama development begins on page 8 and key to this is it being a Whitbread development, so looking at documents the council may or may not hold that I do, I have redacted this one myself.
Another key aspect of this presentation is that it is funded by a Swiss bank SFP, see page 10, it says that SFP Ventures Partners limited is part of SFP Swiss Bank.
SFP was a Swiss private investment firm which when it gained a banking licence in 2003 became SBP Swiss private Bank.
The council recently have issued this press release http://thanetpress.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/thanet-council-review-of-procedures.html
The relevant bit being:
“- Where officers deem it necessary to exclude the press and public due to the content of a report, the report that recommends the exclusion of the press and public will, in future, state what the public interest test is, to explain the rational for the exclusion, and what is meant by commercially sensitive, where applicable.
- The exclusion report will also state that in the case where the public interest test is finely balanced, that the presumption will be in favour of publishing.
- The annual review of contract standing orders and the tight controls over tender opening, which already exist.”
I have now got down to page 87 where the council’s protection is discussed, the key elements there being the £5.6m bond, the retention of the freehold and that the council can repossess the site if the developer doesn’t conform to the timescale