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‘Greater public interest’ sees council reject weekly’s FoI

liz daviesA council rejected a weekly newspaper’s Freedom of Information request about stalled plans for a new supermarket on its patch, claiming there was a “greater public interest” in keeping it under wraps.

The Abergavenny Chronicle submitted the FoI request asking for more information from Monmouthshire County Council on why there had been such little progress made on a plan to build a Morrisons in the town, which was agreed two years ago.

However, the authority declined the request, citing “confidentiality” issues.

A contractual agreement between the two parties meant work on the site had to begin by June this year, or a £1.7m deposit would be forfeited.

However, the newspaper understands the council and Morrisons came to an agreement to avoid triggering this payment.

In its response to the Chronicle, the authority said: “The council accepts the public interest in favour of openness, and that inherent in keeping the public informed of events affecting the County and its residents.

“However, the greater public interest in this case, at this time, is served by maintaining confidentiality so that the best possible outcome for Monmouthshire and its residents can be obtained. The exemption is therefore engaged and we will not be supplying the information you requested at this stage.”

Editor Liz Davies, pictured above left, told HTFP: “Many of our readers have expressed concern about the lack of progress on the plans to build a Morrisons supermarket in the centre of Abergavenny and as the deadline laid out by the contract was reached with no response from either the local authority or the developer, we decided that the time had come to make a FOI request to try and provide our readers with an answer.

“While we appreciate the commercial sensitivity of the negotiations it was disappointing that none of the information we asked for was forthcoming and rest assured we will continue to watch this story very closely, especially as its outcome has such implications on council finances and the future of our town centre.

“In the two years or so we have been waiting for the town centre development to start and rumours have grown in the town over Morrisons lack of action, Monmouthshire County Council has made a lot of noise about the ‘need for openness’ and the importance of keeping the public informed yet there seems to have been very little substance in this, with numerous requests for an update, from both the press and local politicians, passed off with generic and somewhat ironic statements saying very little yet promising to keep everyone informed.

“Morrisons has been equally reticent, with most statement simply thanking the people of Abergavenny for their patience and promising to drop us a line when any progress was made.

“Since the FOI request was made it has been announced that Morrisons is to submit a revised planning application for the site so obviously we will continue to monitor that new development in this ongoing saga.”


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  • August 24, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Being the foodie town that it is, I would think that the folk of Abergavenny should be grateful that the Morrisons isn’t happening. We all know why – all the big supermarket chains are suffering. You may not be able to find out precisely why, Liz Davies, but I trust you’re speculating happily!

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  • August 24, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    As someone who covered a lot of these kinds of stories, I always hated the way they were painted as ‘great for the town’ in terms of jobs, and they always pulled figures out of the air ‘bring millions to the local economy’.

    They don’t, the syphon money off.

    If you’ve got a high street of local traders, you pay them your money in that town and they themselves spend their money in that town.

    If you give a supermarket your money it all gets flown off by winged monkeys to some centralised account somewhere never to be seen in your parts again.

    The idea of bringing jobs is also laughable, seeing as they embrace automation more and more and the jobs tend to be minimum wage. The managers tend to be parachuted in from elsewhere.

    Supermarkets are convenience pure and simple, we all use them, but let’s not pretend they’re anything other than a money making machine that adds virtually nothing to a town other than a smattering of trolly boy jobs.

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  • August 25, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Good for you Liz. I understand Morrisons not caring about disclosure but the council is something else. You can of course appeal. They are citing commercial confidentiality which would be understandable if involved in a tender process. But they are not. What we want to know about is what Morrisons want, given their trading downturn. They have given the council a deposit of 1.7mil and now presumably want to reduce the size of their store, thereby reducing the overall bill and also the amenity for the town. Given that we don’t need another supermarket the council should tell Morrisons they have passed their time, the deposit is forfeit and we want that money to go towards building something the town really needs, proper leisure centre.

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  • August 26, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Good points, Jeff Jones. Not often I read erudite commentary on the internet these days.

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