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my official response to your withholding the Pleasurama development agreement
Subject: Your EIR complaint against Thanet District Council[Ref. FS50280710]
Date: 17/03/2010 09:17:11 GMT Standard Time
Reply To:  

17 March 2010
Case Reference Number FS50280710
Dear Mr Child
Your EIR complaint against Thanet District Council
I am writing from the Information Commissionerís Office about the complaint that you have made about the above public authorityís handling of your request for information dated 8 September 2009 (resubmitted on 14 October 2009). This request was for the Pleasurama Development Agreement.
This complaint concerned the public authorityís failure to issue a response that accorded with the legislation. In particular it took far too long.
I can inform you that this case was prioritised and was allocated to me as case officer. I have now ensured that you have received a response that complies with the correct legislation (the Environmental Information Regulations). I have checked your website and note that you have now received the response. I can explain that the Council has also had difficulties emailing me the response as well and I have informed it of this difficulty.
The Commissioner will now close this case for administrative reasons. This is because Regulation 11 of the legislation provides that an internal review process must be gone through before the Commissioner can consider any case substantively. If you are dissatisfied with the response, it is necessary for you to request an internal review from the public authority. This should be done in writing and provide your representations about why it has erred in this case. The public authority should then provide its internal review within a maximum of forty working days. If it fails to do so, please refer the public authority to the Commissioner again.
However, I have also noted the delays that you have experienced on our system and have referred this issue to the Commissionerís Enforcement Team. The Commissionerís Enforcement Team is monitoring the public authority on an ongoing basis.
If you remain dissatisfied once you have received an internal review then you can contact the Commissioner again. Please assure that you do so within two months of receiving the internal review and provide the following documents:
1. Your request for an internal review.
2. The response you received to that request.
The Commissioner would then reopen the case and consider it in full detail.
I also note that you have made further requests for information. It is open for you to submit new complaints to the Commissioner. To consider a complaint substantively we need the following four documents:
1. Your request for information.
2. A response to that request for information.
3. Your request for an internal review.
4. A response to that request for an internal review.
I hope this email is clear and helpful.
Thank you for your assistance and for bringing this case to the Commissionerís attention.
Yours sincerely
David ****
Complaints Officer
The Information Commissionerís Office

In a message dated 17/03/2010 15:28:40 GMT Standard Time, Michael.***** writes:

17 March 2010

Ref No:11833/1121497

Dear Mr Child,

Thank you for your e-mail of 15th March 2010 wherein you have raised
further matters in connection with this case. Your communication has
been passed to Harvey ***** Head of Legal and Democratic Services
- who will review the previous decision and respond to you directly.

Yours sincerely,

Michael *****
Freedom of Information Assessor

Subject: Re: Thanet District Council - Acknowledgement
Date: 19/03/2010 09:50:52 GMT Standard Time
Reply To:  
To: Michael.******
CC: harvey.****
Hi Michael thanks by the way I have heard from the information commissionerís office to the effect that they didnít receive Harveyís email either.
The officer concerned picked up that I had finally got his response from my website, something I have to say that I find rather bizarre.
It does look as though there is a serious problem with the TDC mail server, it is one thing to have the occasional email that doesnít send but another altogether if the sender isnít aware that the mail hasnít in fact sent.
Best regards Michael

Subject: Re: next request
Date: 19/03/2010 15:46:32 GMT Standard Time
Reply To:  
CC: harvey.****, Michael.*****, richard.****
Hi Harvey this is my official response to your withholding the Pleasurama development agreement Ref No: 11594 / 1110997.
I request an internal review and have added some of my reasons for doing so below.
My primary objective in requesting this document is because I need it for my attempt to try and bring to some sort of solution to the to the ongoing saga of this development that has been a long term and significant blight on Ramsgate and particularly on the part of Ramsgate that I am trading in and living in.
Because of a loophole in the regulations there is no planning agreement, setting out among other things some sort of time framework for the development, normally for a development of this size one would be both mandatory and in the public domain.
My understanding is that the reason that there isnít a planning agreement is because the development is on council owned land and it is also my understanding that it wasnít the intention of the legislation to prevent there from being a planning agreement in the case of development by a private partnership.
The delays surrounding this major development havenít been in any way normal and although no work on the construction of the development has occurred, I understand that the planning consent stands in perpetuity.
Over the past six years the council and the developer have made various announcements that the start of construction work was imminent and in one case that it had already started, when in fact it had not.
The two main impediments to construction work ever starting are the flood risk issues expressed by the Environment agency and the close proximity of the development to an unsupported chalk cliff.
So far the council have failed to convince me that either of these issues has been properly addressed, let alone resolved.
In the case of the cliff I am concerned that the council havenít reached a point where they even understand the principle condition report on the cliff façade, most importantly that the cliff façade doesnít support the cliff.
It is my contention that the council believes that the work they have had done on the façade, was work that has made the cliff safe from the risk of collapse, however the fact remains that as the work didnít involve anchoring the whole of the façade, it remains an unsupported chalk cliff.
I am therefore interested to know how the development agreement addresses these issues.
In a general sense my concern is that that the council has drawn up an inflexible development agreement, setting time limits and penalty clauses that relate to it having approved plans for a development that don't conform to basic safety standards.
Essentially that the have trapped the developer and contractor in a situation where they face a stark choice, during a very difficult economic climate, of resolving the developmentís safety issues, before they start construction, or carrying on regardless of the safety issues to avoid penalties.
Obviously I need to see the development agreement to see if it is unworkable and obviously if this is the case then it is important that the council reviews it.
From the point of view of the councilís legal advisor I would like you to consider the position if I had believed the council at the end of last year, when they assured me and presumably the developer, that the façade was perfectly safe and I had not examined it.
Suppose the development agreement had said that piling was due to start in January and this had happened without the repair to the bulge, I think in all probability that part of the cliff façade would have collapsed onto the pile boring crew killing some of them, pile boring produces considerable vibration.
It is obvious that both the council and the developers have made considerable mistakes, that the cliff repairs, which the council undertook and have already needed further work is a case in point. At the moment the developerís contractor is in the process of digging up the new road layout that his previous contractor laid at considerable expense.
With this types of organisational error concealing the main organisational document relating to the development doesnít appear to be in the councilís or the developerís best interests.
In terms of the sensitive commercial information that relates to the development, I would imagine that I have most of it anyway and have withheld it from publication, it isnít my intention do divulge sensitive information relating to people who want to invest in Ramsgate, I wish only to arrive with a safe and viable development within a reasonable time scale.
My secondary objective relates to the way that this foi request has been handled, both in terms of time scales and the way in which the council has failed to communicate with me in an organised and satisfactory manner.
Since the last failure in communication was very recently, when your notification of refusal failed to reach me without you realising this, it is my intention to take the thing all the way to the end.
You could say that it has become a matter of principle.
Best regards Michael