Claim publishing how many were for or against scheme by area ‘not in public interest’
The arguments about the level of local support for Cycle Superhighway 9 look set to continue after Transport for London (TfL) refused to release details of the breakdown of responses by post code.
The document published following the consultation into the plans for a segregated cycle pathway through Hammersmith, Chiswick and Brentford broke down the responses in a number of ways but did not give details of the level of support from each post code area.
Supporters of the scheme claimed that, as the survey of the results showed that there was nearly 60% of respondents in favour of the scheme and close to half of those responses came from Chiswick, then it necessarily followed that the majority of the W4 population favoured the scheme.
However opponents of the scheme described the consultation as flawed and unrepresentative of local views. London Assembly member Tony Arbour, whose South West constituency covers Chiswick, said, “It looks like the consultation has been undermined by people who live nowhere near the areas affected and who have little or no understanding of the needs of our communities.”
The original FoI request was made back in February and was declined on the grounds that TfL considered ‘that the release of the information in its current form would not serve the public interest as the analysis is incomplete and could potentially be misleading.’ They also said that as the information was to be published at a later date they were not obliged to release it now under the Freedom of Information Act.
ChiswickW4.com appealed this refusal on the grounds that the Information Commissioner’s Office Public Interest Test does not allow authorities to argue that data cannot be released if they feel it may be misleading due to incompleteness. It was also argued that it was in the public interest to release the information in advance of the local elections so residents could make an informed decision about the issue and that, given the basis of the consultation results were being publicly questioned, it was in the public interest to disclose the information to help restore confidence in the consultation exercise.
The appeal was considered internally by TfL who were supposed to respond by a mandatory deadline of 26 April. There was no response by this time and after the matter was raised again by ChiswickW4.com the decision of the review to uphold the refusal was given on 2 May the day before the local elections.
As a justification for refusal they said, “In this instance the scheduled publication timetable properly requires internal and external consideration and approval of the information prior to its release to ensure its disclosed in context and in accordance with the pre-determined schedule already in place. Any early and out of context disclosures of segments of data pertaining to the consultation responses could be detrimental to the fair and open approach we are trying to achieve with this consultation. Therefore it is considered that the public interest in disclosure is outweighed by the public interest in maintaining the exemption.”
In giving reasons for their refusal TfL said that they will be publishing a report into the results ‘later in 2018’. They said that they had received 5,388 direct responses to this consultation as well as 941 template emails from the London Cycling Campaign and 34 from Sustrans.
Simon Munk of the London Cycling Campaign said, “The 941 responses were from a template email action LCC produced and asked members and supporters to send to TfL – all of this was done very publicly, if you look back at our twitter timeline you can see tweets asking people to support CS9, for instance and is a fairly common approach for all sorts of campaigns – for instance, the LTDA, Alliance of British Drivers and other motoring organisations often urge their members and supporters to oppose cycling and walking schemes using similar approaches.
“You can see the issues we asked people to raise in the email and more detail on the email in TfL’s own consultation report on CS9. As you can see from the report, the 941 emails were not included in the overall numbers or detailed breakdown for CS9 responses – which appear to be solely based on direct responses to TfL’s consultation on its website.”
May 6, 2018