The Government have consistently refused to release the information under the Freedom of Information Act and were subsequently backed by the Information Commissioner. Today Judge Shanks of the Information Tribunal has ruled that the information should not have been withheld and has given the Government until 25th May to hand the information over. The Information Rights Tribunal which hears appeal cases from across the UK, is composed of the Tribunal Judge and two other non-legal members all appointed by the Lord Chancellor. In a decision noticed issued today, HH Judge Shanks states that the decision to force the Government to release the information was unanimous.
Powys Fadog chairman Pol Wong was delighted with the decision, he said: “This has been an on going battle for the last 2 years to get information we are legally entitled to, which I am certain will explain why our project was stopped. We will now finally get an answer as to why both our funding and project were stopped just days before we were due to start.”
“I maintain that our project was stopped due to prejudice and in fact, the Welsh Government have been unable to provide an explanation as to why they have stopped it. Basically they have refused to discuss the matter. The fact that we received these letters through FOI 2 years ago with several paragraphs missing, and the way that the Government have strenuously sought to prevent these paragraphs from being disclosed does make me think that they're hiding something.”
Parts of the correspondance released previously can be seen here. In her letters, Karen Sinclair levies several unfounded accusations at the group and also questions the 'need' for the level of Welsh language provision the group hope to provide in Llangollen. The group believe the redacted information due to be released next month will be the final part of the puzzle and will answer once and for all why the project was stopped.
The Welsh Government have consistently failed to explain the decision to pull the project, having refused 3 seperate calls for a public enquiry by north Wales Assembly Members and many enquiries by the media and the public. The Welsh Audit Office are also investiagting the Governments decisions in relation to the project and will be publishing their report in May.
In summing up the case, Judge Shanks said: “It is clear from the final words of the redacted paragraph and from Mr Morgan’s response that the allegation about the people involved with Powys Fadog was intended, and understood to be intended, to support the contention that the Government ought not to have negotiated with Powys Fadog in relation to River Lodge and not for any other purpose.”
“We therefore reject the contention of the Commissioner and the Government that the redacted paragraphs were outside the terms of Mr Wong’s request for information. It follows that we allow the appeal and issue a substituted decision notice requiring the Government to disclose them to Mr Wong. Our decision is unanimous.”