Forthcoming Meeting With Barnsley Council
On 18 and 19 February 2014, two of our Keep it Green members submitted requests to BMBC for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI), regarding activities taking place on Green Belt Land in the Pogmoor/Gawber/Redbrook/Barugh Green/Higham area.
These requests for information were only put forward to BMBC after numerous emails and phone calls were made to BMBC starting on 5 August 2013, asking for information.
After an initial response, all follow up requests to BMBC have been rebuffed and/or ignored. BMBC’s position is that all will be revealed in the Local Plan proposals, due out for consultation in June/July 2014. They further claim that any observed action by developers is speculative.
It was only after many weeks of asking, when it became quite clear that BMBC were not going to give any information, that the FOI requests were then submitted.
The FOI Act allows 20 working days for the required information to be gathered and collated before being given to the person requesting the information.
We were optimistically hoping there would be some information from BMBC in time for our Public Meeting on 21 March 2014.
Both of our members have received emails saying that BMBC needed more time. They indicated that they would be able to respond by 3 April 2014.
This 3 April 2014 date is not insignificant. Our MP, Angela Smith, has arranged a meeting between BMBC and Keep it Green for 4 April 2014.
Even if we receive a comprehensive response by 3 April 2014, we will have less than 24 hours to assimilate any information supplied, before our meeting with BMBC takes place.
Our members have asked for clarification from BMBC on what basis they were extending the time scale for answering the requests for information, as they were not aware of the option to do this.
BMBC responded by email saying that the requests for information were not being dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) but were being processed under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR).
As the applications were made under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI), BMBC were asked, on 21 March 2014, why they are using the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) to process these requests.
In their response, received on 28 March 2014, BMBC advised that :-
“Generally issues relating to Planning and development control do fall under EIR – as the Planning Inspectorate guidelines say:
“You can request information about the environment under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR). The definition of ‘environmental information, provided in the EIR, includes information relating to the state of elements of the environment (such as air, water, land and natural sites) and factors and measures which affect or are likely to affect these elements. Information we hold relating to land-use planning decisions is likely to fall under the EIR.”
We still cannot understand why the change has been made, noting the content of the requests, but will report further when we have more information.