Freedom of information request response - 06446
Copies of all correspondence between the organisation; ‘Daft as a Brush’ and the Council and also all correspondence with Alston Moor Parish Council, Eden District Council councillors including the Chair of the Planning Committee, the North Pennines AONB, Natural England, and any other people or bodies who would have been statutory consultees had "Daft as a Brush" applied for planning permission when they erected the monument in 2016 - for example Eden District Council's "Rights of Way" Officer (if there is one), in relation to the monument at Tyne Head.
We confirm that Eden District Council holds the information you have requested.
However, the Council believes that one of the exceptions set out in the Regulations is engaged in respect of the information requested.
Regulation 12(1) provides that a public authority may refuse to disclose environmental information requested if an exception to disclosure applies. This is subject to the requirement that in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information. There is a presumption in favour of disclosure.
The Council has had regard to the relevant guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
The Council considers that the information requested is exempt from disclosure under Regulation 12(5)(b) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 relating to the Course of Justice and therefore I regret to inform you that the Council will be not be releasing it.
Regulation 12(5)(b) states:
12.-(5) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), a public authority may refuse to disclose information to the extent that its disclosure would adversely affect—
(b) the course of justice, the ability of a person to receive a fair trial or the ability of a public authority to conduct an inquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature;
In this instance, the withheld information relates to an enforcement case.
In keeping with all Environmental Information Regulations exceptions, Regulation 12(5)(b) is a qualified exception and requires the Council to conduct a test of public interest in terms of disclosure, as set out in Regulation 12(1)(b). We have therefore undertaken a public interest test, in order to ascertain whether the public interest is best served by the disclosure or the withholding of the information. The public interest test is set out below:
Factors in favour of disclosure
- The Council’s commitment to openness and transparency.
- The inherent presumption in favour of disclosure of information requested under the Environmental Information Regulations.
- There is a general public interest in authorities being accountable for the quality of their decision-making and ensuring that decisions have been made on the basis of good quality legal advice is part of that accountability. Transparency in the decision-making process and access to the information upon which decisions have been made can enhance this accountability. It could also be seen that there is a public interest in some cases in knowing whether or not legal advice has been followed.
Factors in favour of withholding the information
- The information requested is subject to an enforcement case and therefore disclosure of the information would have an adverse effect on any future investigations relating to potential enforcement proceedings, in the event of information in relation to the investigation stage being made public.
The public interest in providing the information has been carefully weighed against any prejudice to the public interest that might arise from withholding the information. On balance the Council does not consider that the public interest in disclosing the requested information outweighs the benefits which might arise from the greater openness and transparency provided by disclosure and, that disclosure of the requested information would adversely affect the course of justice.
This response, therefore, acts as a formal refusal notice under Regulation 12(1).