EDDC withdraws from legal battle over relocation transparency

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7705-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn

EDDC's Knowle HQ. Ref shs 7705-15-12SH Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

District chiefs have backed down and are now set to release details of a deal to sell their Knowle HQ to a developer.

Campaigner Jeremy Woodward took East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) decision to the Information Commissioner after his Freedom of Information requests were refused.

The transparency watchdog ruled in Mr Woodward’s favour and, after initially arguing against two rulings, the authority has now withdrawn its appeal.

EDDC is set to publish details of the bidding process for its offices at Knowle and its contract with PegasusLife.

The developer’s application to create a 113-home retirement community at Knowle was refused in December and it is yet to say if it will appeal the decision.

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An EDDC spokeswoman said: “The council previously stated in November 2016 that the appeals were lodged due to the way the Information Commissioner handled these requests and because of the sensitivity of the information at that moment in time.

“With the PegasusLife planning application having been refused, it is considered that this sensitivity has now been reduced and that publication of the information is acceptable.

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“In addition, the Information Commissioner, through the appeal process, has clarified that the council was right to question the way the decision was made.

“As such, the council has now obtained much needed clarity on the position relating to the confidentiality of tendering processes, not just for Knowle, but for all its commercial activities.

“Mr Woodward has been provided with the information that he requested and copies of the documents in question will be available on the relocation pages on the East Devon website.”

The EDDC spokeswoman said the next tranche of paperwork on its relocation to Honiton and Exmouth, covering up to September 2016, should be available online ‘very shortly’.

She added: “Furthermore, we can confirm that there has been no cost to us – or East Devon taxpayers – for undertaking this appeals process.

“Each of the parties to the appeal agreed to bear their own costs and our costs were all internal.”

Mr Woodward previously had run-in with EDDC in 2015 when it refused to comply with Freedom of Information requests on its relocation.

The eight-month legal battle saw EDDC blasted as ‘discourteous and unhelpful’ and cost taxpayers £11,000 in lawyers’ fees.

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