By way of background to this agenda item, the Deputy Monitoring Officer advised that:
- Having been made aware of discussions between the Council and the landowner as a result of his response to the Neighbourhood Plan consultation, the Council had then received a request from the South Hams Society for information on:
‘any communication the Council had had with any party since 13 September 2017 concerning development of land off Shadycombe Road, Salcombe, otherwise known as ‘The Crofts’. The land was earlier the subject of a pre-application planning enquiry to which the Council gave the reference 1739/16/PDM.’
A review had been completed in November 2018 and information released and a further review was undertaken by legal officers during early 2019 when the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) complaint had been re-opened;
Officers had been exploring potential redevelopment opportunities at Batson Quay, Salcombe including land known as ‘The Crofts’ and had held workshops with community groups and representatives. Contrary to the media reports, these sessions had been led by Assets (and not Development Management) Officers and no formal pre-application had ever been submitted for the land in question;
A lot of information had been released in November 2018 but not an initial drawing that had been presented to the workshop that had suggested that there may be a site for a potential Community Housing project. The Council had argued that the drawing was commercially sensitive and should not be released as to do so would adversely affect legitimate economic interests;
- The ICO test for whether or not information should be released was a high one and the ICO was not persuaded that the exception had been engaged in this instance;
- At the time the initial request had been received, there had been a robust debate between officers. Whilst the legal advice had been understood, officers had felt that, although the decision may be challenged, the Council should still argue its case on this issue.
During the subsequent debate, reference was made to a lessons learned exercise. It was noted that a review of the Development Management Pre-Application process was to be undertaken by officers and the Panel requested that this item be presented to its meeting on 28 January 2020 prior to its onward consideration by the Executive. In addition, the Panel also requested that an agenda item titled: ‘Guidance on ICO Procedure’ should be included on the agenda for the next meeting to be held on 21 November 2019.
Specifically with regard to the role of Members, assurances were given that, in the future, Members would be notified in respect of when ICO decisions had been published and it was agreed that this would be included as part of the Guidance report to be presented to the next Panel meeting.
It was then:
That the Panel Work Programme be updated whereby:
o a ‘Guidance on ICO Procedure’ report be presented to the next Panel meeting to be held on 21 November 2019; and
o a ‘Review of the Development Management Pre-Application Process’ be presented to the Panel meeting on 28 January 2020.