Tuesday 8 April 2014

Thanet Council response re pre-consultation discussions re Walpole Bay De-designation

On March 28th, I asked Thanet Council for information regarding discussions that were undertaken by the council prior to the public consultation regarding the de-designation of Walpole Bay for bathing. These pre-discussions were part of their submission to DEFRA.

I requested:

"'During December 2013 and January 2014 the Council held discussions with two local hotels, a local traders' representative and a Residents Association representative. The business representatives felt that dedesignation was preferable to a sign advising against bathing' 
Please can you provide the details of these meetings and who they were."
The council has today replied stating it has applied exemptions under sections 40 and 41 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Section 40  relates to personal information.
Section 41 relates to information that was provided in confidence.

I'm unsure how pre-discussions with groups that are then relayed to DEFRA as backing for the de-designation of a public beach could be undertaken by a local authority in private so that the information is 100% exempted from release.  Section 40 personal information could be redacted. Section 41, I'm unsure how the council can legitimately undertake consultations that are confidential in this manner. I've issued a request for an Internal Review. 

From: XXXXX@thanet.gov.uk
Date: 8 April 2014 16:36
Subject: Thanet District Council - Your Information Request Response
To: "louise.oldfield@gmail.com"

Ref No: 62796 / 2649740
Subject:Bathing Waters At Walpole Bay
Dear Ms Oldfield,
Thank you for your communication received on 28/03/2014 where you requested information about meetings held with local traders in relation to the consultation regarding the bathing water dedesignation of Walpole Bay.
This information is exempt from release under section(s) 40 & 41 of the Freedom of Information Act.
The reason for this is that the release of the names of the Traders would make the person on persons attending the meetings easily identifiable which therefore contravenes the Data Protection Act and Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act applies.
Also, the attendees at these meetings had a legitimate expectation that it was held in confidence and that the council would not publish their details therefore Section 41of the Freedom of Information Act also applies.
These are absolute exemptions and there is therefore no requirement to consider the public interest.
If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: Information Request Assessor, Thanet District Council, P O Box 9 Cecil Street, Margate Kent CT9 1XZ, or send an email to foi@thanet.gov.uk.
Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF
Yours sincerely,
This email and any files transmitted with it may contain privileged or confidential information. It is intended solely for the person to whom it is addressed. If you are not the intended recipient please destroy or delete the content of this message immediately and notify the sender by reply email. Opinions, conclusions and other information in this message that does not relate to the official business of Thanet District Council shall be understood as neither given nor endorsed by the council.

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