- 17 May 2019
Date received: 17 Apr 2019
Date responded: 17 May 2019
1. Records of any communications between Mr Stephen Hall, Scottish Government reporter and Cala Homes, Cala Management Ltd or their agent or representative between the period 24 September 2018 and today’s date.
2. Confirmation of the number of planning appeals relating to major developments that Mr Stephen Hall has determined in the last 5 years.
3. Confirmation of how many of those planning appeals decided by Mr Stephen Hall were decided in favour of the applicant seeking planning permission.
4. Records of any communications between the Scottish Ministers/their officials and the DPEA relating to planning appeal PPA-250-2312 – application for planning permission – Land South of Main Street, Aberdour.
As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.
This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.
1. I have carried out a search for correspondence within the remit you have specified. No documents were found, other than those on the case file for the appeal PPA-250-2312.
The majority of the information you have requested is available from the DPEA website at http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=119936.
Under regulation 6(1)(b) of EIRs, we do not have to give you information which is already publicly available and easily accessible to you in another form or format.
There were three documents identified which fell within the remit of your request which had not been published to the DPEA website, and these are attached.
2. Mr Stephen Hall has determined 9 major planning appeals in the last 5 years.
3. 6 of those major planning appeals were found in favour of the applicant.
4. One document has been found which falls under this part of your request which
can be released.
An exception under regulation 10(4)(d) of the EIRs (unfinished or incomplete information) applies to some of the information you have requested because it is material which relates to the Ministers draft reply to correspondence from another MSP. The response to the letter has not yet been issued to the MSP in question.
This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that unfinished information which is still being worked on or is under active consideration is not disclosed when it might misinform the public or give a misleading impression of the Minister’s view or position on the matter to which the information relates.
In addition, an exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs (internal communications) applies to one piece of information you have requested because it is internal communication between a Scottish Minister and his officials about a request for a statement in relation to a news article.
This exception is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception.
We recognised that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing Ministers a private space within which issues and policy positions can be explored and refined, until the Government as a whole can reach a decision that is sound and likely to be effective. This private thinking space also allows for all options to be properly considered, so that good decisions can be taken. Premature disclosure is likely to undermine the full and frank discussion of issues between Ministers and their officials which in turn will undermine the quality of the decision making process.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House