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Disturbance of the ground by landslips below Rocklands caravan park.

Disturbance of the ground by landslips below Rocklands caravan park.

Judgement delayed in ICO appeal

The tribunal hearing HBC’s appeal against the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ruling that it must release a geotechnical report on the landslips in Hastings Country Park has ended, but a decision is not expected until late January. Nick Terdre reports.

Whether ‘Coffey 2’, as the geotechnical report at the heart of this legal battle is known, will be made public remains unclear as, following a three-day appeal hearing at the First-tier Tribunal in Brighton last week, judgement will not be given until late January. In the meantime both sides to the dispute may make written submissions.

It is believed that Coffey 2 may throw important light on the causes of the landslips which started within Rocklands caravan park and spread into the Country Park.

The decision of the ICO that the report should be released was made in March in response to a complaint by Richard Heritage, a former Hastings resident. He launched the case when Hastings Borough Council refused to release the full document, despite having given ample assurances that it would.

However, come the appeal, which was heard by a judge assisted by two panel members, Mr Heritage decided to withdraw from the case. As a result Bob Okines of Save Ecclesbourne Glen (SEG), who had been due to appear as a witness for him, was unable to do so and was furthermore refused permission to participate in any capacity, according to a SEG statement.

The ICO was represented by a barrister and one of its officers and HBC by a barrister accompanied by HBC’s chief legal officer Christine Barkshire-Jones and solicitor Kirsty Cameron. Witnesses called by the appellant included the HBC information officer, Lisa Greathead, and the assistant director of environment and place, Mike Hepworth, as well as the Rocklands owner Len Guilliard.

Five grounds were cited for reversing the ICO decision: confidentiality of proceedings; confidentiality of commercial information; harm to interest of volunteers; course of justice; and that the request for disclosure was manifestly unreasonable.

“The presentation of evidence was exclusively from the perspective of HBC and Rocklands as we were unable to question or refute any of the evidence,” SEG says. ”We were obliged to sit silently in court listening to statements from the HBC barrister and witnesses without any right of reply to correct, clarify or defend ourselves against allegations of harassment by SEG members.”

The hearing was partly held in sessions open to the public, but partly in closed sessions which discussed evidence considered by HBC and Rocklands to be confidential.

See also Country Park legal showdown

Posted 21:06 Thursday, Nov 30, 2017 In: Home Ground

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