A Firm (Auctioneers & Valuers) and Galway County Council

CourtInformation Commission
JudgeSenior Investigator
Judgment Date18 May 2021
Case OutcomeThe Senior Investigator affirmed the Council's decision. She found that section 37(1) (personal information) applied to the records and that the public interest did not weigh in favour of their release.
RespondentGalway County Council
Record NumberOIC-102272-F6R3D3
Whether the Council was justified in refusing access to records relating to its acquisition of land from two named parties under a particular Compulsory Purchase Order

18 May 2021

Background

On account of the manner in which it is framed, it is useful to set out the applicant’s FOI request of 28 September 2020 in detail rather than in summary form. It referred to a particular Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) and two named parties (Mr A and Ms B).

Paragraph one said that the Council acquired land from both of the named parties under the CPO and described information regarding Mr A’s plots that the applicant stated the Council had published. The applicant said that it had been unable to confirm if “the alleged owners were de facto the registered owners as at the date of confirmation of the CPO”. It asked for confirmation of whether the Council treated with “this person” and whether “they” transferred the title of whatever was purchased under the CPO to the Council. Paragraph two set out details regarding Ms B’s plots that the applicant said the Council published. Paragraph three asked the Council to explain why it did not follow what the applicant described as the normal way of numbering plots.

Paragraph four referred to a particular plot number and asked the Council to “set out” the farm buildings, their extents, their construction type and any roofing materials. It suggested that any buildings that existed might have been built after the introduction of planning legislation and, if this is the case, asked for details regarding any such planning application made. Paragraph five concerned the land purchased by reference to the same plot number referred to in paragraph four. It asked for details of what was found on it when inspected by Council officials, such as farm buildings, cattle pens, etc. It asked for drawings and specifications and the estimated cost of works carried out relating to the plot. It asked for the reason for the work carried out by the Council on behalf of the landowner “if indeed the named person was the owner”. It asked for a map or plan of the precise location of the work carried out by the Council.

Paragraph six asked for the particulars, drawings and maps as prepared by the Council in relation to the CPO and details “as outlined above” in relation to the works carried out on the lands acquired, any drawing or plan prepared for those works, the name of the person responsible for the drawings or plans and the total costs incurred in regard to all works carried out by the Council outside the area involved in the CPO.

The Council issued its decision on 27 October 2020, in which it answered the query in paragraph three and provided access to two drawings that it says were published under the relevant CPO. Otherwise, however, the Council refused the request under section 37(1) of the FOI Act (personal information). In summary, it stated that it considers the request to seek personal information as well as commercially sensitive information regarding accommodation works for the individuals mentioned. It noted that the requester had not provided any confirmation that it was acting for Mr A and Ms B or that they consented to the release of their personal information.

The applicant sought an internal review on 4 November 2020. The Council’s internal review decision of 15 December 2020 affirmed its refusal of the request under section 37(1) of the FOI Act on the basis that the records form part of discussions and negotiations with third parties as part of a CPO process and the records therefore constitute the personal information of those parties. It reiterated that the requester had not provided any...

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