AddThis SmartLayers

Paper wins 18-month Freedom of Information battle

An 18-month long battle to reveal details of possible sites to ease congestion problems around busy ports has been won by a weekly newspaper group.

The KM Group has been fighting Kent County Council to reveal the whereabouts of the sites to deal with ‘Operation Stack’ – a system whereby lorries currently queue on the M20 to avoid congestion on other roads when ports or the Channel Tunnel are blocked or closed.

KCC has proposed a 70-acre site for the lorry park, which would cost £40m to build, at Aldington just off the M20 south of Ashford.

However the KM Group has been fighting the council to discover the locations and comparative costs of other sites under consideration, using the Freedom of Information Act and the Environmental Information Regulations.

The council told the KM Group it was not in the public interest to release the information because of commercial sensitivity, the potential impact on land values and possible anxiety caused among those living near the other locations.

But following a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office, the council has until this week to publish a list of the alternative sites being considered and the cost to the taxpayer of developing them.

It said KCC was wrong to withhold the information, ordering it to be disclosed because of the “considerable environmental impact” and the affect on local residents.

KM Group political editor Paul Francis said: “The county council has always argued that this site was the best option for its planned lorry park.

“In order for that to be tested, and possibly challenged, it struck us as logical that people ought to be told what other possible options had been considered, which is why we went to appeal.

“The ruling is unequivocal in upholding our view and clearly sets out why it is in the public interest for people to be told what those options are.

“Moreover, the ruling emphasises that the public, not just the council, should be involved in the process of assessing all the options under consideration.”

A spokesman for KCC said it would be making no comment on the ruling at this stage.


Eric Hobsbawn (19/01/2010 15:51:17)
Thank you KM. Now we can all sleep safer in our beds.

Arnold Layne (19/01/2010 16:44:18)
I am thanking my lucky stars. What would we do without the KM to protect our morals and the family way of life.
I always try and get it at least once a week!