Revealed: KCC ‘cravenly’ sought ICL’s FoI approval

Imperial College ‘ordered’ Kent County Council to remove two key documents from a series that it was about to release to save-wye.org under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents — one by the consultants, Ernst & Young, and a second 31-page document on how to deal with development in the local Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, written by the property consultants GeraldEve — were removed from the list of items to be released under the act to save-wye.org between February 27 and March 5. KCC has refused to offer an explanation for the removal of the documents — which were both drawn up for Imperial and shared with the county council and Ashford council.Now, a senior source within KCC has told save-wye.org that the county council is ‘cravenly’ seeking approval from Imperial College for all of its FOI releases and is passing on the names of people requesting information to Imperial and Ashford council before making disclosures. The move — which save-wye.org has learned may contravene data protection laws — explains the county’s refusal to comment further or release any further documents under the act. This website is now considering a direct complaint to both the FOI and Data Protection commissioners.

The 'collusion' e-mail

Pete Raine’s email to David Brooks Wilson and David Hill

The KCC source, who insists on anonymity, said that the release of a memo by Pete Raine, strategic planning director at KCC, in which he refers to conversations with David Brooks Wilson, director of estates at ICL, and David Hill, chief executive of Ashford council, about sharing FOI requests had been ‘a mistake’ and had infuriated Imperial College. Mr Raine’s memo, which suggested collusion between the two authorities and Imperial, also instructed his opposite numbers to share all disclosure to be made under the FOI act.

The first document, which KCC was under an obligation to release and dated January 23 2006, is described as ‘GeraldEve Draft 23/1/06 31 page Briefing note considering the key policy criteria and issues which we must satisfy to justify development in the AONB for the research and commercial enterprise (also dated 20th January 2006)’. The second is undated and described as ‘Ernst & Young document — 4 sided A4 User Guide entitled Project Alchemy QuickPlace’. We understand that ‘Project Alchemy’ is the codename given to the Concordat scheme from the start. The term ‘QuickPlace’ indicates it is probably the result of substantial internal discussions within the giant international agency. ‘QuickPlace’ is a module of the Lotus Notes software used by large-scale companies to manage large-scale projects.

The KCC source said: ‘There is a hell of a lot of disquiet within the county council about officers’ handling of Imperial’s plans and the fiasco of the two concordats. Now it seems that very senior officers are cravenly seeking permission from Imperial College before carrying out their democratic obligations.’
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About David Hewson

Professional novelist, published in more than 20 languages. Creator of the Nic Costa series set in modern Rome. Most recent book the novel of the Danish TV series, The Killing.
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