Monday, April 21, 2008

PPP plan approved against expert advice

Rob Edwards
Sunday Herald
A former Labour minister rejected advice from senior officials to delay a deeply flawed and highly controversial £100 million plan for new schools and homes in Stirling and Dunblane, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

Top-secret documents disclose that the deputy communities minister in 2005, Johann Lamont, was strongly urged by government planners to call in the application for consideration by ministers. The plans were lambasted by advisers as "questionable", "worrying" and "poor".

Stirling Council, which promoted the development, was also accused of "procedural failings" and of maximising profit at the expense of decent housing. "Stirling Council's judgement in carrying out its statutory duty under the terms of planning legislation has been heavily clouded by its conflict of interests," warned the official advice to the minister...

Jim Thomson, an SNP councillor in Stirling, used freedom of information legislation to request the advice that had been given to ministers.

Despite being ordered to release the advice by the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, the then Scottish Executive kept it secret, taking the highly unusual step of appealing his decision to the Court of Session.

Last week, however, the new Scottish government decided to abandon the appeal, and released the advice to Thomson. "It's hardly surprising it was denied us," he said. "Every aspect of the planning approval was deemed flawed, including the funding arrangements. The entire process has proven to be a sham." Thomson accused the Labour councillors who ran Stirling Council at the time of putting their political interests before those of the communities they represented. Their failure had been compounded by Lamont's failure to heed the advice of her officials, he alleged.
Read the full story.

See also Scottish Executive's disclosure log:
Scottish Information Commissioner Decision 231/2006: Jim Thomson - Information on related planning applications regarding Wallace High School, Stirling.

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