Varteg opencast report won't be published
5:01pm Thursday 29th August 2013 in Gwent news
AN INFORMATION watchdog has denied a Torfaen politician’s request for the controversial Varteg Hill report to be published.
The information commissioner has told Torfaen AM Lynne Neagle that it would not be in the public interest to publish an inspectors report into plans for open cast mining before a decision is made by a Welsh minister.
Ms Neagle had made a complaint about the Welsh Government to the information commissioner after she was denied her request for the report.
She said: “I'm bitterly disappointed by the decision. I'm taking advice on appealing and I remain committed to continuing to do everything I can to oppose the proposed opencast development.”
Ms Neagle initially requested the information in February from the Welsh Government after she publically vowed to keep up the fight against extracting 256,000 tonnes of coal from Varteg, near Blaenavon.
Welsh Government-appointed inspector, Clive Nield, recommended the appeal be allowed but the final decision lies with the minister for housing and regeneration, Carl Sargeant.
She wrote to Mr Sargeant asking him to review the decision not to release the inspector’s report, upon which he will base his decision, following her request for it to be published under environmental information regulations.
One of her main concerns is that there are homes within 500 metres of the proposed mine, while the Welsh-medium school Ysgol Bryn Onnen is just 120 metres away.
But in March, the Welsh Government responded saying that “the public interest favoured non-disclosure.”
Ms Neagle contacted the Information Commissioner, which considers complaints on public authorities over the release of information.
She asked them to consider if the information should be disclose because of the significant local interest in the planning appeal.
In a response to Ms Neagle, a letter from The Commissioner states that it “recognises strong public interest in affording a public authority safe space in which to deliberate over important issues.”
The Commissioner also took into account that once a formal decision is made, the report will be published, and concluded that the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosure.
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