Councillors’ race to meet Freedom of Information demand

Bishop’s Castle town councillors are facing a daunting task, thanks to a Freedom of Information request from a local landowner.

Dr Ross Jones of Star Farm in Colebatch has asked for copies of every response to the questionnaire sent out by the town council last year as part of the consultation for the new Town Plan.

Councillors are now trawling through all the individual questionnaires to remove any identifying information before they can be sent to Dr Jones.

This is one of seven requests made by Dr Jones between 31 July and 17 October under the Freedom of Information Act, some with several distinct parts, all relating to the case made by town council when it opposed a planning application submitted by the Jones family. The other six requests have already been met.

Initially the town council declined to supply copies of the questionnaire responses on the grounds that it would be too onerous to find and remove anything that could identify individual respondents. It has already supplied a summary of all the answers.

But after being taken to task by the Information Commissioner they have agreed to prepare and supply the documents to Dr Jones. The councillors have agreed that the job would be too much for the clerk so they have agreed to share the job between themselves to a deadline of 19 November.

The Jones’ planning application, to build houses on a site in Woodbatch Road, is opposed by the town council and has been rejected twice by Shropshire Council’s South Planning Committee.

It is understood that Dr Jones now plans to appeal to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate.

He is querying a claim by the town council that most people believe affordable housing, especially for young families, is the priority for housing development in Bishop’s Castle. 110 people returned questionaires in last year’s Town Plan consultation, and just over 40% of them highlighted affordable housing as a priority need.

Another field off Woodbatch Road (not owned by the Jones family) has been earmarked as a potential site for self-build housing for local people through the Community Land Trust.

Read the town council’s statement to South Planning Committee, Shropshire Council

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