Hastings council wins case against Information Commissioner at tribunal

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The council has won an appeal against the Information Commissioner at an Information Rights Tribunal in Brighton.

The authority had been ordered by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to release a report about a landslide which had occurred in Ecclesbourne Glen, part of Hastings Country Park.

The council had initially declined to publish the report when asked to do so, believing that it contained information which was commercially sensitive.

The ICO had directed the council in a ‘decision notice’ to publish the report, but the council said it remained concerned that the commercially sensitive nature of the information was such that it should not be released. It therefore appealed to the Information Rights Tribunal.

In its judgement on Monday (March 26), the tribunal concluded the public interest in releasing the report was small, the harm likely to be substantial.

The tribunal said that it was satisfied the ICO’s decision notice was wrong in law, and the appeal was allowed.

Council spokesman Kevin Boorman welcomed the decision.

He said: “This has been a long and difficult case, and we are obviously delighted to have won it. We are all very disappointed the landslide in Ecclesbourne Glen took place, and know the subsequent closure of part of the glen has saddened residents and visitors alike.

“The country park is one of the jewels in our crown, and extremely popular. We would much rather the whole of Ecclesbourne Glen was open but, sadly, given the continuing unstable nature of the ground, the footpaths affected by the landslip remain closed.

“The area where the landslip occurred continues to be unstable and is at risk of further slippage. Another sudden slip could be serious, and potentially fatal to anyone walking in the area.

“Obviously we can’t reverse the landslide, and it is regrettable that a small number of people are still continuing to challenge our decisions.

“This is time-consuming, costly and unproductive for us, and we would much rather that our energies were directed elsewhere.”