SBC ‘Spook’ Censors Mundane Planning Doc
- TIM THORNE winkles out the truth (well – a tiny bit of it) about Councillor Tom Fox’s abortive attempt to sell off Scarborough Town Hall and move the Council en masse to a semi-derelict office-block out on the fringes of the Empire.
Real Whitby readers may remember the 2012 attempts by Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) to move the Town Hall, based on St Nicholas Street in the heart of Scarborough town centre, to an industrial estate on the edge of the Borough with no homes within half a mile of the proposed site.
Information unofficially emanating from SBC was that the move to Dunslow Road was scuppered by pre-planning advice given by East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
The story given to the local press by the Council differed considerably to the above and the Council claimed their sudden U-turn was the result of ‘listening to public opinion’.
SBC Council Leader Tom Fox said the Town Hall move was “not just about pounds, shillings and pence”. Fox also stated that “he had been strongly swayed by how the public saw the building and how it was the heart of the council which would have been lost if there had been a move to Prospect House”.
I thought it would be prudent to request sight of the pre-planning advice given by East Riding of Yorkshire Council via the FOI process. Given the woeful record of trying to get information from Scarborough Borough Council, I decided it would be best to approach East Riding of Yorkshire Council first.
I asked East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) for a copy of the pre-application advice on the 22nd August 2012. They responded two days later with a refusal citing client confidentiality; which seems a plausible reason for refusal. And yes, you read it correctly, ERYC replied to an FOI request in two days.
I then decided to ask Scarborough Borough Council directly for a copy of the pre-application advice on 24th August 2012. They sent an auto-response four days later advising me they would respond by 25th September 2012.
No response was received. Autumn came and went. Winter came, but no response from SBC. Spring ended without a response from SBC. Then we had the start of our current glorious summer. In total, five reminders were ignored by SBC. Only when SBC received correspondence from the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) did they decide it was time to answer the FOI request. I’m sure they’ll be getting a very public slap from the ICO for their non-compliance with the FOI Act in the near future.
On the 17th July 2013, nearly eleven months after I first made the FOI request, SBC Solicitor and Deputy Monitoring Officer, David Kitson, saw fit to release a copy of the pre-application advice. A picture of the redacted document is at the foot of this article.
Unfortunately, the document was so heavily redacted by SBC that it is impossible to tell whether the pre-application advice given by ERYC advised them that they could or couldn’t legally move the civic function from St Nicholas Street to Dunslow Road. It appears that SBC even saw fit to redact the date of the document!
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