Otterpool Park Update: Priest Under Pressure
The courts say they must release it. The Information Upper Tier tribunal say they must release it. But still Folkestone & Hythe District Council, led by Dr Susan Priest, refuse to release the Otterpool Park Viability Assessment (OVA).
In a walk around of Westenhanger Castle with Cllrs, both John Bunnett and Andy Jarrett made it clear to Cllrs, the profit for the development, where up to 10,000 homes might be built, was in the region of £750 – £800 million.
The Council state they are now “taking advice” (legal) on whether the full OVA should be released, or just an executive summary.
Previously Dr. Priest has said, regarding the release of the OVA:
“our legal advice is that commercially sensitive information can be redacted at this time, and hence I have no reason to believe that there is anything unlawful in the actions being taken.”
So, you like us might be confused as to the “advice” the Council is “taking” when it is clear from Dr. Priest’s response, advice has been taken.
Now here is something ironic. The developer for the Leas Club – Kantion/Gustavia, released its Viability Assessment in full when told to by the Council’s planning department. So surely, we cannot have one rule for them and another for the council, can we?
Again, we re-iterate, Justice Dove’s judgment is clear when he states at Para 63 and 64 of his judgement:
“save in exceptional circumstances the anticipation is that viability assessments, including their standardised inputs, will be placed in the public domain in order to ensure transparency, accountability and access to decision-taking for communities affected by development. The interests which placing viability assessments into the public domain serve are clearly public interests, which in my view support the contention that such assessments are not exempt information unless the exceptional circumstances spoken to by the PPG arise and solely an executive summary should be put in the public domain.”
It is clear the full OVA must be released, except in exceptional circumstances; which the Council has NOT advanced, failing that an Executive Summary must be released regardless.
We ask all Cllrs who are minded to lobby Dr. Priest, the Planning Inspectors for the Core Review Strategy, and the Planning Department to release the full Otterpool Park Viability Assessment.
We ask you to keep up the pressure and keep contacting
firstname.lastname@example.org (core review strategy)
Llywelyn.Lloyd@folkestone-hythe.gov.uk (Head of Planning
plus your Councillors
as she understands the importance of transparency and accountability, so she says. Without either and without the full visibility of the OVA, our community will be denied access to the decision-taking in spending a lot of money; which we the ratepayers will ultimately be paying for.
What is the Council trying to hide by not releasing the full Viability Assessment?
Possibly because the Viability Assessment consists of fifteen pages.
First page has a picture of someone crossing their fingers and the other fourteen are blank