26th March 2014 – FOI Response: 1058.2013-14 – Freedom of information
- From whom are the North Yorkshire Police buying the land from for the proposed new Police HQ at South Kilvington?
- How much are the North Yorkshire Police paying for the land for the proposed new Police HQ at South Kilvington?
- What date did the North Yorkshire Police buy the land for the proposed new Police HQ at South Kilvington?
- Which Estate Agent was the site up for sale on?
- Is the landowner or landowners of the site a member of any UK political party?
- Is the landowner or landowners of the site currently an elected member for any UK political party? If so, which authorities do they sit on?
- Is the landowner or landowners of the site a relation of the Police and Crime Commissioner, her staff or any Senior Officer in the North Yorkshire Police?
- Does the Police and Crime Commissioner, her staff or any Senior Officer in the North Yorkshire Police socialise with the landowner or landowners?
- How many other sites were considered before deciding to buy the land at South Kilvington?
- If any other potential sites for a new HQ were ruled out by the Police and Crime Commissioner or the Chief Constable, please could you describe and detail the process which ruled those potential sites out.
Extent and Result of Searches
Searches were carried out within the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. The information you have requested is held by the Commissioner, with the exception of the information requested in questions 3, 4, 7 (although some information is held in respect of question 7 and this is described below) and 8.
Initially I would like to clarify that the South Kilvington site is currently North Yorkshire Police’s preferred site and investigations into the suitability of the site are ongoing, but this is not a done deal.
The following link will take you to the Land Registry’s website, where you can find out who owns registered land:
Questions 2 & 3
The land at the preferred site for the new Northern Base has not yet been purchased by North Yorkshire Police.
On 19 December 2013, the Executive Board approved a decision notice, DN 85/2013 (dated 19th December 2013), giving approval to enter an agreement to purchase the site, subject to obtaining planning consent. Under the agreement, North Yorkshire Police will pay the current land owner a deposit to secure the site for 12 months, during which period NYP would seek to submit a planning application. If necessary, this period could be extended by a further 12 months with a further payment of the same amount. This agreement removes the risk of purchasing a site with public money before it is known whether planning consent will be gained.
Negotiations are ongoing in respect of the potential purchase of the preferred site. Information in respect of this, and in particular the purchase price, is currently commercially sensitive. I have explained more about this below.
There is no recorded information held by the OPCC in respect of this question as the land was not up for sale with an Estate Agent.
Questions 5 & 6
We confirm that one of the landowners is a Conservative Hambleton Councillor.The Commissioner categorically had no knowledge of who owned the site until after the Decision Notice had been signed. Land ownership of potential sites was not identified until a shortlist of sites had been completed. At the point of identifying the ownership for the preferred site at South Kilvington, the Estates Team and their consultants were not aware that one of the owners was a local councillor. When this fact became known, and prior to negotiations commencing, the local councillor was made aware of the interest and they stood down from the Planning Committee. Now knowing who owns the land, the Commissioner can confirm she has never knowingly met the Councillor nor had any interaction with her on any level.
The landowner is not a relative of the Commissioner nor any of the staff of OPCC. No recorded information is held by the OPCC as to whether the landowner is a relative of any senior officer within North Yorkshire Police.
There is no recorded information held by the OPCC in response to this question. Information about who personnel socialise with is not recorded as a matter of course within the OPCC. As explained in Questions 5 and 6 above, however, the Commissioner has never knowingly met the Councillor in question and nor has anyone else within the OPCC.
Questions 9 & 10
This information is held within a Site Evaluation Matrix which was prepared as part of the decision making process. The Site Evaluation Matrix will be published alongside the planning application and will be available to you at that point. I have explained more about this below.
The matrix discounted many sites based on priorities set for a new HQ before the process began. Sites that came out at the top of the matrix were discussed at the Joint Executive Board and the current preferred site was the site which came top of the matrix.
Information Reasonably Accessible by other means
In response to Question 1 I have not provided you with the information because I am exempt from providing you with a separate copy of information that is reasonably accessible by other means. Section 21 applies as the details about land ownership are available from the Land Registry. Section 21 is a class based absolute exemption which does not require consideration of the harm or public interest when applying this exemption.
Information that is Commercially Sensitive
In response to Question 2 I have not provided you with the information as I am exempt from doing so pursuant to Section 43 of the Act, as it would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests of the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire and/or North Yorkshire Police.
Information that is intended for future publication
In response to Questions 9 and 10 I have not provided you with the information as I am exempt from doing so pursuant to Section 22 of the Act, as the information is intended for future publication.
Public Interest Considerations
Sections 22 and 43 are qualified class based exemptions, which means that consideration must be given to the public interest in disclosure or non-disclosure of the information, but there is no requirement to demonstrate any harm that may occur in the event of the information being disclosed. In respect of Section 22, it is recognised that it must be reasonable in all the circumstances to withhold the information until the date of publication.
Factors favouring Disclosure – Questions 2, 9 and 10
Disclosure now would allow immediate access to the information and would provide a full picture of the reasons behind the decision to choose the preferred site, and the cost of purchase of the land to the OPCC/North Yorkshire Police.
Factors favouring non-disclosure – Question 2
The purchase of the land is not a done deal. If the purchase price is disclosed, and then the purchase does not progress, North Yorkshire Police and the Commissioner will need to enter into negotiations in respect of a different site, which could be prejudiced if a purchase price has already been agreed. This may mean that North Yorkshire Police would be unable to achieve the best value for money for the taxpayers.
Negotiations with the landowner(s) are ongoing in respect of issues ancillary to the purchase price, which may be prejudiced if the price itself is disclosed.
North Yorkshire Police will be transparent in respect of the financial position relating to Northern Base, as all details will be published in the statutory accounts in due course.
Balancing Test – Question 2
All relevant financial information will be published in due course in accordance with statutory accounts regimes. Premature disclosure of this information, however, is likely to have an adverse impact on the ability of North Yorkshire Police to negotiate purchase prices in respect of other pieces of land in the event the purchase of this land does not proceed.
The factors favouring non-disclosure therefore outweigh the factors favouring disclosure.
Factors favouring non-disclosure – Questions 9 and 10
A decision to publish the Site Evaluation Matrix was made on the 7th November 2013, when a publication strategy relating to the Northern Base was prepared.
Within the publication strategy it was decided that the Site Evaluation Matrix would be published within the Planning Application.
The decision to publish the document had already been made when this request was received.
The intended publication is part of a scheme of timetabled publications to ensure commercially sensitive material is not published until it is no longer commercially sensitive.
Disclosure in accordance with the planned timetable means that the information can be produced and published efficiently and will be available to all enquirers at the same time.
Balancing Test – Questions 9 and 10
A decision has already been taken to publish this information within a short timescale and in accordance with a planned publication strategy, to avoid any commercial harm that may arise from early publication.
Therefore the factors favouring non-disclosure of the information you have requested in Questions 9 and 10 outweigh the factors favouring disclosure.
Section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the Act) requires the Commissioner when refusing to provide information because the information is exempt, to provide the applicant with a notice which: (a) states the fact, (b) specifies the exemption in question and (c) states (if it would not otherwise be apparent) why the exemption applies.
Pursuant to Section 17(1) Freedom of Information Act 2000, this letter acts as a refusal notice in relation to your request.
Your attention is drawn to the attached sheet which details your right of complaint.