FOI request (FOI203765)
Requested Fri 03 February 2017
Responded Fri 03 February 2017
I note that the Planning Committee has decided to vary the S106 Obligations attached to the Station Plaza development. I also note that it appears that they were presented with no evidence to support the application, nor did they have any explanation in the report why they should not have such access. The only relevant commentary appears to have been the following:
"As per the procedure for the assessment of the application under Section 106BA a viability statement was submitted as part of the application by the applicant. The viability statement was subsequently submitted by the Council to the District Valuer Service (DVS) for further assessment. The conclusion of the DVS is that the requirement for affordable housing cannot be viably provided."
I am shocked that Councillors were asked to make a decision about the likely loss of 30 odd affordable homes, in a Borough which has a major need for these, without adequate indeed any evidence in front of them. There may have been some concern about commercial confidentiality but that is surely overridden by the important public interest in this case. In my representations I did draw attention to DCLG and PSA Guidance and a House of Commons Guide which included reference to a recent Tribunal finding about financial disclosure in such cases: "The Tribunal concluded that any harm in disclosing the information [pricing and profit assumptions etc.] was outweighed by the public interest in understanding the reasoning for particularly controversial decisions."
In light of the above this is a formal Freedom of Information request for copies of the viability statement submitted by the developer to support their application and of the assessment provided by the District Valuer.
I regret any inconvenience this may cause but feel that it is important that these documents are available for public scrutiny.
This information is held
Please see attached 2 documents which both the applicant and District Valuer Service (DVS) have agreed to release however both documents contain individuals names, telephone numbers etc and therefore have been redacted as these fall under Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 'personal data' this is an absolute exemption and will not be provided.
Please see below refusal notice in connection with the document supplied by the DVS
NOTICE OF REFUSAL
The document supplied by the DVS contains some information that is commercially sensitive and falls under Section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act - Commercially Sensitive Information - this information has been redacted.
Information prejudicing commercial interests - commercial interest relating to an organisations commercial activity and may include trading activity procurement and relationships with third parties.
The exemption afforded by Section 43 is subject to what is known as the 'public interest test'. When applying the test in a particular case a public authority is deciding whether the public interest is better served by non-disclosure than by disclosure.
Although the Freedom of Information Act does not define 'in the public interest', there is a presumption under Freedom of Information that openness is in the public interest. In applying the public interest test a public authority will take into account the distinction that has been often made by courts between things that are in the public interest, and things that merely interest the public. Where applicants have not identified public interest considerations succinctly or accurately, the public authority has a responsibility under the Act to make their own assessment of the public interest considerations in the particular case.
We have identified the following public interest factors that may be seen as encouraging the disclosure of information:
a) accountability of public spending
We consider these factors to be of limited relevance in relation to the information in question.
Public interest factors seen as encouraging non-disclosure are, generally, the exemptions themselves. In consideration of this matter we came to the following conclusions:
a) ensuring that companies are able to compete for business fairly
b) damage to reputation and/or financial interests
In weighing the factors for and against disclosure we have concluded that the likely benefit to the applicant and the wider public of disclosure is outweighed by the likely prejudice caused by such disclosure and that therefore the public interest is better served by non-disclosure.
For the reasons given above we will not be communicating to you the information you have requested.
Freedom of Information