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LDA fails to provide all CPO information

In a mealy-mouthed response to my request for information about the costs of acquiring several pieces of land in the north of the Olympic Park the LDA says ‘The Commissioner in that Decision Notice required the LDA to disclose to you the “withheld information”. That term is not specifically defined…’ The LDA then goes on to argue, in its letter of 26th September 2008 (attached), that the information withheld related to the leasehold of the Clays Lane estate and the freehold of the Park Village estate “and not in relation to the other pieces of land requested by you on 15th September 2008”.

Having studied this letter again I find this hard to understand. It makes no reference to information being withheld on some sites as opposed to others and lists all the sites about which I had asked requested information. In this letter the LDA said it would not provide any information about any costs but would provide the names of the freeholders and leaseholders.

In a further response on 23rd October 2008 (attached) it later revealed that the freeholds of some sites, East Marsh, the Manor Gardens Allotments and the Eastway Cycle Track and Sports Centre had not been acquired from Hackney and the Lea Valley Regional Park Authority but that leases might be taken out by the LDA on some parts of these lands.

Even including the letter of 23rd October, to which the LDA has not referred in its reply, I have still not received any information on three sites, Newham’s two freeholds, for the Clays Lane traveller’s site and the Clays Lane estate, and Hackney’s freehold for the Waterden Road travellers’ site. In addition, money may have been paid to Hackney or the LVRPA, as freeholders, for leaseholds on East Marsh or the former Eastway sites. No information has been provided as to whether any such payments have been made. In its letter of 23rd October the LDA made a meal out of identifying the Eastway sites.

I do not consider the LDA has responded to my request and I have therefore renewed my complaint with the Information Commissioner to see what he makes of the LDA’s response.

On the specifics of the response, the LDA says it is disclosing the amount paid for the leasehold on the Clays Lane estate, which was held by Peabody Trust, and for the freehold on the Park Village estate, which was held by Newham Council. In addition to a payment for land it also refers to something called ‘Disturbance’ on the Clays Lane estate, about which I am unclear. However, this would seem to indicate Peabody received a total of £15,630,339.86

Clays Lane Estate:
Land: £15,000,000; Disturbance: £630,339.86
Park Village Estate:
Land: £15,229,110

Interestingly I was told in an email by Peabody on 2nd September 2008: “Of the £29.1 million referred to in our accounts for 2007/08, £10 million relates to the Clays Lane transaction.” In their email Peabody said: “We always endeavour to ensure that our accounts fully and transparently disclose details of our financial performance and position, although there is no requirement to disclose details of all individual transactions.”

Maybe Peabody did not get all the money!

Peabody had only received the estate at the beginning of August 2005, after the Olympic Bid was won and after a prolonged battle by the Clays Lane Housing Co-operative to resist the takeover. So Peabody received over £15.5million for an estate where it had made no investment and for a lease it held for less than two years! Peabody had also received £1.75million (a total of £2.5million before debts were paid) from the Co-op's accounts, making a total of over £17.25million. In addition, during the relocation Peabody took care to extract any rent arrears, even those dating back to the days of the Co-op for which they were few records, from compensation payments, tried to charge the highest rents possible and told some residents, falsely, that they were not eligible for rehousing, even though they held assured tenancies.

Residents saw none of this compensation for the estate for which they had held the lease for over 20 years, although they did receive individual compensation and were rehoused. However, they were also considerably worse off in financial terms. The LDA presented 'evidence' to the Compulsory Purchase Inquiry suggesting residents' future housing costs, including utilities and council tax, would rise by about £12 a week on average. A survey of residents suggests the rise was more like £53 a week, almost exactly what had been predicted by one of Clays Lane's team of witnesses to the Inquiry. The Inspector had said he preferred the LDA's evidence.

Residents saw their community destroyed despite being told as early as the end of 2003 that the LDA would work to move residents as a community. The LDA repeatedly stated in its CPO evidence that it would 'sustain' and 'support' local communities. In the event, despite the findings of the Fluid survey in the summer of 2004 that around half the population, about 200 people, might be interested in such a move the LDA took no action to make this a reality until the spring of 2006, after the relocation programme had begun and when residents were already moving out. It had claimed it was making arrangements in the spring of 2005. Unlike the Travellers a future Clays Lane site was not included in the compulsory order and despite negotiations lasting over three years in the end no group moves occurred.

The LDA offers no apology for the prolonged delay in providing this information and its legalistic response about the lack of a specific definition of the ‘withheld information’, along with the lack of information supplied, only goes to suggest a continuing unwillingness to provide this information.


AttachmentSize
lda response re cpo prices for land.pdf126.63 KB
LDA FoI response re cost of ClaysLane Letter to Julian Cheyne (cc ICO)-3407343-2A.doc144 KB
LDA response to FoI appeal on cost of Clays Lane.pdf189.74 KB

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