Campaigner wins right to release info

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High Peak Borough Council has given permission for a local man to reveal details of the cost of maintaining its old HQ following pressure from the Buxton Advertiser.

The paper accused the authority of displaying an “Orwellian attitude” in the way it deals with information requests from the public and Press.

The former Chinley offices have been empty and up for sale for 18 months, and there have been calls for it to be brought back into use to save the costs of maintaining the building and bring the democratic process closer to the heart of the Borough.

The deadline for bids for the site was on May 11, but two e-mails from the Buxton Advertiser requesting the number of developers expressing an interest brought no reply.

And as the Advertiser went to press yesterday (Wednesday), Edmund Bradbury, the Chapel-en-le-Frith man who has been campaigning to bring the offices back into use, had still not heard after six weeks whether he was to be given permission to reveal the costs of keeping it shut – even though he had been supplied with the information by the Council under the Freedom of Information Act.

Instead, the Council had told him that he was not allowed to tell a third party what they had told him.

“This is by definition in the public domain,” said Buxton Advertiser Editor John Phillips.

“It is unthinkable in a modern democracy that one citizen can be given information by a public authority and yet be banned from passing it on to another.

“It’s like a gagging order, and smacks of Orwell’s 1984.

“I don’t know whether the Chinley Offices should be sold or re-used – that’s not my job.

“But I believe it is wrong of the Council to give the impression that it is dampening down debate on the issue by failing to answer perfectly reasonable questions.”

A council spokesperson said: “We have received a number of bids for the Chinley offices but can’t give numbers at this stage as it would prejudice our position from a negotiation perspective.

“The council has considered the request received from Mr Bradbury for the re-use of the information supplied under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

“The council has given consent to the re-use of the information supplied to Mr Bradbury in accordance with the purposes he has outlined in his ‘Re-use request letter’, subject to the terms and conditions contained in the council’s Licence to reproduce Public Sector Information.”