Author Topic: FOI Request: Hospitality Provided By Crest Nicolson To Elected Members Of Swindon Borough Council  (Read 2774 times)

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Offline Geoff Reid

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Post Preamble:  The first section of this post has been added to provide chronological consistency within the context of scrutinising the publicly recorded instances of Swindon Borough Councillors having contact with Crest Nicolson prior to the planning committee approving Crest Nicolson's application to build at Tadpole Farm.

This freedom of information request was submitted by Ben Reid on the 15th November 2010.

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/north_swindon_developments#incoming-133223

Quote

Dear Swindon Borough Council, As a concerned resident of West Swindon I would like to ask the following questions in regards to the Developments in North Swindon (Tadpole Farm and Pry Farm).

1. Were official meetings held between the council and the developers?

A) When were the meetings held?

B) What was discussed at the meetings?

B1) Where minutes held for the meeting?

B2) if minutes were held, is it possible to find a copy?

C) Where were the meetings held?

D) In what official capacity were the following Councillors representing at these meetings?
 
Councillor Peter Greenhalgh

Councillor Roderick Bluh

Councillor Vera Tomlinson

Councillor Justin Tomlinson

2. Have any councillors made objections to the planning commissioner regarding the developments at Pry Farm and Tadpole Farm?

A) if there have been Objections, which Councillors made them and when?

3. How many objections have been put forward in total? (Councillor Objections and Public)

Many thanks in advance
Ben Reid





Quote
From: Ceri Stephens
Swindon Borough Council

14 December 2010

Dear Mr. Reid,

Ref: FOI Freedom of Information Request FOI 101000244815

Thank you for your e-mail regarding North Swindon Developments.

I enclose for your attention, the following information.

1. Were official meetings held between the Council and developers?

Response: Two official meetings have been held between the Council and developers on Tadpole Farm, however there have been no official meetings on Pry Farm.

The first meeting was held on 25th January 2010 at the Swindon Borough Council Civic Offices.

The second meeting was held on 3rd December 2010.  Both meetings were information sharing exercises between developers and the Council where developers presented information to the
Council. No minutes were taken for either meeting.

The January 2010 meeting was attended by:

* Cllr Peter Greenhalgh as Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Transport

* Cllr Rod Bluh as Leader of the Council

* Cllr Vera Tomlinson as Ward Member for Abbey Meads

* Justin Tomlinson as Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North Swindon

The December 2010 meeting was attended by:

* Cllr Peter Greenhalgh as Cabinet Member for Sustainability, Strategic Planning, Property and Transport

* Cllr Rod Bluh as Leader of the Council

* Cllr Vera Tomlinson as Ward Member for Abbey Meads

2. Have any Councillors made objections to the planning commissioner regarding the developments at Pry Farm and Tadpole Farm?

Response: The position of planning commissioner does not exist. The Council made representations to the Examination in Public into the draft Regional Spatial Strategy objecting to the housing numbers proposed for the town, in particular those to the West of Swindon.

As no planning application has ever been made for this site Councillors have not had the opportunity to object or otherwise.

3. How many objections have been put forward in total?

Response: In response to draft Core Strategy policy SSP9 - Tadpole Farm there were 149 responses.

In response to draft Core policy SSP10 - Wiltshire Sites there were 32 responses.

If you are dissatisfied with the service you have received in relation to
your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review, you should
contact:

Customer Services

Civic Offices

Euclid Street

Swindon


See also: http://oakhurstresidents.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/why-did-tomlinsons-and-leader-attend.html

See also: Tadpole Farm - Mellon Questions Justin Tomlinson (Then PPC, Now MP)




Post #1 Starts here


Amused as I am by the chaff being blown into the air by activists friends & colleagues of Conservative Councillors involved in first derogating and then approving the Tadpole Farm planning application.....I can't help thinking that the generation of such a large volume of chaff is intended to prevent people from scrutinising certain events.

The FOI request below concerns one such event.  There are others which we'll probably want to look at in greater detail later.


Quote from: Geoff Reid
Dear Swindon Borough Council,

The leader of Swindon Borough Council has recorded in his register of interests that, on the 6th of February 2012, he attended a dinner at the House of Commons which was hosted by Crest Nicholson, a well known property development company.

The leader of Swindon Borough Council also recorded in his register of interests that other Councillors, MP's and Peers were present at the same dinner.

The leader of the council recorded in his register of interests that the purpose of the dinner was to discuss 'Housing Policy'.

I therefore request that Swindon Borough Council supply the following information:

1. The names of all Swindon Borough Councillors who attended the dinner function mentioned above.

2. The name or rank and job title of any other individual paid by, or otherwise in the employ of or contracted to Swindon Borough Council who attended the dinner function mentioned above.

3. Details of any expense claims submitted to Swindon Borough Council by Swindon Borough Councillors attending the same event.

4. Details of any expense claims submitted to Swindon Borough Council by any individual paid by, or otherwise in the employ of or contracted to Swindon Borough Council who attended the dinner
function mentioned above.

Yours faithfully,

Geoff Reid




I also left the following annotation to the above request to give some indication of the reason for the request and, of course, a link back to Talkswindon.


Quote
Geoff Reid left an annotation (12 July 2012)

It is a matter of public record that several local election candidates in Swindon made statements in their 2012 local election material concerning Crest Nicolson's intention to develop a site in Swindon known as 'Tadpole Farm'.

The candidates stated that Crest Nicolsons proposal for Tadpole Farm was 'Inappropriate Development' and pledged themselves to fighting it.

Their exact words were:

"Fighting Inappropriate Development - We'll fight the developers whose plans threaten to increase traffic levels, overburden local services and concrete our countryside. We will continue to oppose the current Tadpole Farm application"

These candidates were subsequently elected to public office and one of them appointed to the Planning Committee of Swindon Borough Council where, (despite having no previous experience of the role), his first act was to U-turn on his pre-election campaign promises and propose that the Tadpole Farm application be approved.

The application was approved on the 12th of June 2012.

Residents of areas adjacent to Tadpole Farm, and members of the Talkswindon.org forum are trying to verify that the planning process has been conducted appropriately and legally and it is regrettable that submitting FOI requests seems to be the only way to achieve this.

Why?, because some members of Swindon Borough Council seem determined to obstruct the fair, transparent and reasonable transfer and publication of information which is routinely published in other local authority areas.

See also: http://www.talkswindon.org/index.php/top...



Receipt of request confirmed:


Quote
From: Customer Services Swindon Borough Council

13 July 2012

Thank you for your email which has been forwarded to the Freedom of Information Service for response.

Kind regards

Customer Services
Swindon Borough Council
Wat Tyler House
Swindon SN1 2JG
Phone: 01793 445500



I note that the link to Cllr Bluh's 'register of interests' on the Swindon Borough Council Website appears to have stopped working: http://ww5.swindon.gov.uk/moderngov/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=454&T=6

If anyone has a copy I'd appreciate having it for our records :)


Edit: Hat tip to lamplighter Ollie Cromwell for his speedy assist in obtaining a copy of the Council Leaders General Notice Of Registrable Interests. [Last updated in February 2012]


 
« Last Edit: July 16, 2012, 10:10:32 AM by The Vile Gentleman »



Offline The Oakhurst Avenger

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@ The Vile Gentleman

Should be very illuminating, if they agree to your request!

The thing is...this is not the first time Swindon Councillors and the North Swindon MP have had meetings with Crest...they are well documented on this site previously. The thing is minutes are never recorded so you will never find out for sure what was really said.
Defender of truth and justice

Offline Geoff Reid

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@ The Vile Gentleman

Should be very illuminating, if they agree to your request!

The thing is...this is not the first time Swindon Councillors and the North Swindon MP have had meetings with Crest...they are well documented on this site previously. The thing is minutes are never recorded so you will never find out for sure what was really said.

Yes, quite right - I'd forgotten that particular FOI, thanks for the nudge. I've added DaMellons FOI into the post#1 preamble. 

I can't remember if the Lib Dems had a prospective parliamentary candidates, (PPC's), for North Swindon in January 2010 but Michael Wills MP was the MP serving North Swindon at the time....

....which begs the question of whether or not he and a Lib Dem PPC attended the same meeting that Justin attended as Conservative PPC for North Swindon, (several months before the 2010 General Election), or whether any non-conservative politicians were even invited to the meeting.

I'll ask Michael Wills, (now Lord Wills) - would someone else be kind enough to enquire of the lib dems? I think their election candidate was A Lock - not sure when they were selected as PPC though.


Offline Geoff Reid

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@ The Vile Gentleman

Should be very illuminating, if they agree to your request!

The thing is...this is not the first time Swindon Councillors and the North Swindon MP have had meetings with Crest...they are well documented on this site previously. The thing is minutes are never recorded so you will never find out for sure what was really said.

Yes, quite right - I'd forgotten that particular FOI, thanks for the nudge. I've added DaMellons FOI into the post#1 preamble. 

I can't remember if the Lib Dems had a prospective parliamentary candidates, (PPC's), for North Swindon in January 2010 but Michael Wills MP was the MP serving North Swindon at the time....

....which begs the question of whether or not he and a Lib Dem PPC attended the same meeting that Justin attended as Conservative PPC for North Swindon, (several months before the 2010 General Election), or whether any non-conservative politicians were even invited to the meeting.

I'll ask Michael Wills, (now Lord Wills) - would someone else be kind enough to enquire of the lib dems? I think their election candidate was A Lock - not sure when they were selected as PPC though.


I've received a response from Lord Wills, (Lord Wills of Swindon & Woodside Park)


Quote from: Lord Wills of Swindon & Woodside Park

Dear Geoff

Thank you for your letter of 16 July.

I'm afraid all my diaries from that time are now in store in the Wiltshire Archives so I cannot easily check them. However I have no recollection of being invited to such a meeting or of attending it.
Moreover, I note that it was held on a Monday. As I was then a Minister and taking legislation through the House of Commons, it was almost impossible for me to attend meetings in  Swindon between Monday and Thursday and this was well-known in the town. So if anyone had wanted me to attend such a meeting, they would have scheduled it for a Friday or Saturday.

You are welcome to publish this response.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.

Yours sincerely

Michael Wills
Lord Wills of North Swindon and Woodside Park

Is it suspicious that the serving North Swindon MP was not invited to the meeting in January 2010, but the prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party was?

I'll just crack a swift note off to Anne Snelgrove, (ex MP for Swindon South), to see whether she was invited or had knowledge of it.





Offline Geoff Reid

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I've also heard back regarding my FOI request concerning Cllr Bluh beiing entertained at the House of Commons at Crest Nicolsons expense, in February 2012.  SBC have confirmed Cllr Bluh's presence at the function but, (and this is either sloppy or deliberate), have not actually supplied the requested information.

The information requested was:

1. The names of all Swindon Borough Councillors who attended the dinner function mentioned above.

The answer:

"Councillor Bluh was the only person form Swindon who attended a dinner with MPs, councillors and advisers to discuss the Government’s housing agenda."


It struck me as being odd that, although my request was very specific, the answer to it seemed vague.  I wrote to Sharon Druett a second time asking:

Quote
Dear Sharon,

Thank you for responding promptly to my request for information. Could you please clarify the following point:

In question 1. I asked for:

Q 1. The names of all Swindon Borough Councillors who attended the dinner function mentioned above.

To which you responded:

"Councillor Bluh was the only person form Swindon who attended a dinner with MPs, councillors and advisers to discuss the Government’s housing agenda".

As my question did not refer to persons or people can you please confirm the names of every Swindon Borough Councillor who attended the specified function, listing them in numbered order, e.g, 1. Cllr Roderick Bluh.

Yours sincerely,

Geoff Reid


Her reply was as swift as it was curt:

Quote from: Sharon Druett - SBC FOI officer
"The information that you have requested has already been provided."




I reflected on the above for a while and decided to trust my instinct and political antenna:


http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dinner_function_held_at_the_hous#incoming-298819

Quote from: Geoff Reid
Dear House of Commons,

The leader of Swindon Borough Council has recorded in his register of interests that, on the 6th of February 2012, he attended a dinner at the House of Commons and that he was attending as a
guest, or accepting the hospitality of Crest Nicholson, a well known property development company.

The leader of Swindon Borough Council also recorded in his register of interests that other Councillors, MP's and Peers were present at the same dinner.

The leader of the council recorded in his register of interests that the purpose of the dinner was to discuss 'Housing Policy'.

I therefore request that the House of Commons supply the following information:

1. What was the function called, termed, referred to or named as?

2. What was the purpose of the function?

3. Which individuals, organisations and other bodies organised, hosted and paid for the function?

4. Which individuals, organisations and other bodies were responsible for inviting guests to the function?

5. When responding to questions 3 and 4: Has any individual, organisation or other applicable body referred to in your responses to my questions 3 and 4, previously applied to hold functions at
the House of Commons? if so, please name both the the successful and unsuccessful applicants and specify how many functions (including the purpose and date of each function) each successful
applicant has organised and/or held at the House of Commons.

6. Please supply a list of people invited to the 06/02/2012 function - including, (where applicable and the information exists or is available), their job title, rank, elected status if known* and the name of the company or other body they were representing at the function.

6. Please supply a list of people who attended the 06/02/2012 function - including, (where applicable and the information exists and is available),their job title, rank, elected status if known* and the name of the company or other body they were representing at the function.

* Elected Status meaning MP, Councillor, Lord, Mayor etc.

Yours faithfully,

Geoff Reid



Something about this doesn't smell or feel right so I've written to a couple of other Peers I know. 

Btw: Da Mellon recently unearthed an interesting document which refers to the 6th Feb 2012 dinner at the House of Commons, (more on this in a few weeks time - we'll keep it under our hats for the time being )