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Victory for Craigavon Lakes campaigners as tribunal orders council: ‘Hand over secret masterplan’

Campaigners said it had cost council over £20,000 trying to deny them access to a masterplan they first requested over three-and-a-half years ago

SRC Craigavon Lakes

ABC Council has been ordered to hand over the South Lake Masterplan by a legal tribunal.

The document, which had been sought by campaigners acting to save Craigavon Park and Lakes from multi-million pound development plans, has been withheld despite repeated requests.

The council was directed last June to hand over the Masterplan but had failed to do so and had appealed against the decision.

But today (Thursday), a first tier tribunal found the public interest lay in “favour of disclosure”.

To that end, it directed that Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council should “disclose a copy of the withheld information”.

The ruling, by Mr Brian Kennedy QC, came after consideration of the appeal by ABC Council against the Information Commissioner for Northern Ireland, Elizabeth Denham CBE.

The tribunal will “consider submissions of the issue of costs as reserved by the Commissioner in her submissions” if this is required.

Welcoming the decision, the lobby group ‘Save Craigavon City Park and Lakes’ described it as a “major victory for our campaign”.

They said it was now over three-and-a-half years since the information was requested.

The campaigners said it had cost the council over £20,000 trying to stop them from accessing the masterplan which they were today once again ordered to do.

Further action is to be taken to access additional documents to date denied.

Save Craigavon City Park and Lakes confirmed the move, saying: “Council refused us the Craigavon Integrated Development Framework again yesterday for the same reasons and this weekend we will submit a further complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office.”

Thursday’s ruling has been welcomed by Alliance Party representative on ABC Council.

This follows previous requests by Alliance representatives to be furnished with the document were denied.

Lagan River Councillor Eoin Tennyson said previous requests by he and colleague, Councillor Peter Lavery, to be furnished with the South Lake Masterplan had been denied.

Said Councillor Tennyson: “In June 2019, the Information Commission ruled that council had not applied the rules for withholding information correctly, and ordered the release of the document within 35 calendar days.

“What’s even more concerning, is that a backroom decision was then taken to appeal this ruling without consulting elected representatives.

“We have consistently said that fighting the disclosure of a document – which should have been available to the public and their elected representatives from the outset – is a wholly inappropriate and worrying use of ratepayers’ money.

“I welcome this ruling which I hope will send a clear message that only open and transparent governance is acceptable.”

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