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Viability in planning — transparency where it matters?

By Roy Pinnock

We highlighted the significance of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) decision to require disclosure of financial information relating to the Heygate Estate renewal scheme in July last year. Local interest groups had challenged London Borough of Southwark to show the workings out behind an affordable deal that will result in less than four per cent of the new homes being social rented. The First Tier Tribunal’s recent decision on the appeal against the ICO’s decision highlights the need for care in dealing with confidential information in the planning process.

LB Southwark’s decision to accept 25 per cent affordable housing (rather than the target 35 per cent) in relation to Lend Lease’s Heygate scheme has been under intense local scrutiny. The viability appraisal was submitted on a confidential basis, but local groups sought full disclosure under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 regime (EIR). The ICO is the first port of call once the authority’s complaints procedure has been exhausted.

The ICO heard the challenge to LB Southwark’s decision to refuse disclosure last year. It accepted that disclosure of redacted elements of the reports would be commercially harmful. Nonetheless, applying the public interest test under the EIR regime, it decided that the interest in disclosure outweighed the harm. LB Southwark appealed the decision to the First Tier Tribunal…

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