A weekly’s fight to uncover the truth behind £1m council blunder will continue in spite of a judge’s ruling, its editor has vowed.
The Macclesfield Express has campaigned for the publication of a report into how Cheshire East Council began work on a new rubbish dump before it had been granted planning permission, which led to the project being scrapped.
An FOI request by the Express to publish the report was refused by the authority – a decision appealed by the Trinity Mirror-owned title to the Information Commisssioner’s Office.
The ICO ordered the council to publish a redacted version of the report, which featured partial censorship of 87 out of its 101 pages.
A first tier tribunal judge found in favour of the authority after a further appeal by the paper, on the grounds that the reputation of those who had supplied information for the report needed to be protected.
On Wednesday the Express printed a special four-page pull-out to make readers aware of the ongoing saga.
Express editor Gareth Tidman said: “This is not the end of it.
“It has been three years since we revealed work had begun on the plant, even though the council had not been granted planning permission.
“This is unheard of, and to make matters worse, council bosses at first denied that the work had begun.
“The council’s reputation has been severely damaged by this whole affair.
“We believe that publishing the report is now the only way to draw a line under the matter and we cannot believe the judge has taken this decision.”
Councillor Michael Jones, leader of the council, said: “The judge’s ruling shows that the council were right in redacting the report in the way that it did.”
He added: “If we were to publish the report in full, it could ruin the careers of those involved forever. They have not done anything illegal.
“The council could also be sued for substantial damages for harm to reputation.
“The Information Commissioner’s Office felt there was a risk to the council and people involved. However I would love to publish the report.
“The council has nothing to hide, but it cannot be published without putting the public purse at risk.”