Residents who won a landmark tribunal case which could force the district council to release financial details on the redevelopment of some land in Chichester have asked: what have you got to hide?
The joy of winning the case was short-lived after Chichester District Council (CDC) appealed against the information tribunal judge’s ruling to release the details last Friday. The details surround the redevelopment of the old Portfield football ground at Church Road.
The tribunal against the council was put forward by the Information Commissioner (IC), to which Lynne Friel, secretary of Westhampnett and Church Road Residents’ Association, was a third party.
“They have not released the information and are now asking for permission to appeal to a higher Information Tribunal,” said Mrs Friel.
“This is after spending a lot of the public’s money on legal costs and associated staff time, all with the aim of preventing that same public from learning what is in these estimates, which are now more than three years old.
“People are starting to ask: what is CDC trying to hide?”
In 2007, CDC submitted a proposal to redevelop and build 80 homes on the old football ground, which is publicly-owned land.
Outline planning permission for the scheme was passed by one of the council’s planning committees in late 2009.
The council refused to give out the estimates of the likely major infrastructure costs of the Portfield scheme to the residents group and the IC.
A hearing was held in London in February and the tribunal delivered its judgment in a 20-page document two weeks ago.
A Chichester District Council spokesman said: “We believe we are an open and accountable council. However, there are occasions where we believe it is important to protect information in the interest of the taxpayer.
“This appeal is on a point of law. We have received advice that the First Tier Tribunal may have misdirected themselves at the earlier hearing.”
The council said the information was not released because it was confidential in nature. It also said making the information public would be giving buyers an inappropriate advantage when making their tender.
A residents’ meeting about the tribunal result will be held at Swanfield Community Centre tomorrow between 6pm and 7pm.