• Should pre-application advice remain confidential?

    19th September 2013 | News | Claire
  • Following concerns from residents I asked that the item be discussed by the committee, as I do not believe that it is necessary or correct that the information should have a blanket label of confidentiality.

    There are certainly cases in my view, when it is very much in the public interest to release pre-application advice. 

    Commercial sensitivity is a different issue and can be treated separately.

    Currently, a Freedom of Information request must be made by someone wishing to see pre-application advice and it is up to EDDC whether they release the information or not. Officers say requests are considered on a case by case basis.

    The report with the scrutiny paper agendas, however, reveals that the Information Commissioner is looking into EDDC’s practice in relation to this issue, following a formal complaint.

    Page 12 of Probity in Planning – a guide by the Local Government Association and Planning Advisory Service, states:
    “Confirmation that a written note should be made of all meetings. An officer should make the arrangements for such meetings, attend and write notes. A note should also be taken of any phone conversations, and relevant emails recorded for the file.

    “Notes should record issues raised and advice given. The note(s) should be placed on the file as a public record. If there is a legitimate reason for confidentiality regarding a proposal, a note of the non-confidential issues raised or advice given can still normally be placed on the file to reassure others not party to the discussion.”

    Link here – http://www.local.gov.uk/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=e0cde66c-8cda-4f56-b784-a45cdd41f089&groupId=10180

    It seems to me that EDDC is operating on the basis on blanket confidentiality with the occasional exception, which appears to be contrary to national guidance.

    Here are EDDC’s overview and scrutiny agenda and reports – http://www.eastdevon.gov.uk/os_agenda_260913_combined.pdf

    The meeting will take place next Thursday (26 September), starting at 6.30pm.  My understanding is that the meeting will be recorded.