See below the Response from EWR received at 7pm on 3th September exactly 20 working days after the relevant Cambridge Approaches Freedom of Information Request was sent. We are sad to report that EWR have not provided any substantive information on the grounds that it would be too much work to produce it. They also feel that it would not be in the public interest to disclose such information. Their letter, in full follows:
“Dear William Harrold,
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION DATED 6 AUGUST 2020
Thank you for writing to the team here at East West Rail with a request for information around our current proposals, received on 6 August 2020 (“Request“). We have handled your request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the “Act“) and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (“EIR“).
We are also aware of a further set of questions, some of which were discussed at online community events on 24 and 25 August. Thank you for the follow up email you sent after the events, which gave useful notes. As agreed, we will answer the letter in full separately.
In relation to your Request, we’ve estimated that the cost of complying with it would exceed £450 which (under section 12 of the Act) is the limit above which public bodies are not obliged to provide information in response to requests. I have annexed the full text of this exemption for your information at the base of this letter. The full text of EIR regulation 12(4)(b) is also highlighted for your reference, which provides an exception for requests that are not reasonable (within the meaning of the EIR) such as those where significant or disproportionate costs would be incurred in handling them.
The reason we can’t answer your requests within the cost limit is because of the significant volume of information requested. We would need to contact multiple officials and ask each of them to determine what relevant recorded information they hold, then to locate, retrieve and extract it. This work would certainly exceed 18 hours of staff time.
We would also need to inspect every record manually in order to redact personal information and additional time would be required to separate environmental information from non- environmental information due to the mixed nature of your Request. This would entail a disproportionate and unreasonable burden in terms of costs and resources.
Much of the information requested will be published in due course, but we believe that until the information is complete, it would be inappropriate and potentially misleading to publish it. For instance, survey results are likely to be reported as part of preliminary environmental information published as part of statutory consultation and a comprehensive environmental statement to accompany an application for a development consent order (“DCO“) under the Planning Act 2008.
While we understand the general public interest in favour of disclosure of information, we consider that the public interest in this case lies in favour of not disclosing the information in response to your Request .
Accordingly and for the reasons set out above, we are refusing your Request under section 12 of the Act and EIR regulation 12(4)(b).
TPA/TPA/396550/3 3 September 2020
You are more than welcome to send us a new, more specific request, and we will consider if that can be dealt with reasonably and within the Act costs limit. You could for example significantly reduce the amount of information that you are seeking to a level that is not as resource intensive by specifying and limiting the particular geographical area that is of interest to you.
If you are unhappy with the way EWR Co has handled your Request or with the decisions made in relation to your Request you may ask for an internal review within two calendar months of the date of this letter by writing to:
If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office Wycliffe House
Cheshire SK9 5AF
Without prejudice to the comments above, we are keen to be as helpful as we can and have provided you with some additional information below in response to your Request that we hope will be useful. We hope these answers will help you to understand, to some degree, the extent of the work that would have been required in order to provide the information requested.
1. Locations of all requested and executed surveys (structural, geotechnical, environmental, ecological, geological and otherwise in your leaflet entitled “What kind of surveys are happening at the moment?”) in and around the Option E area of the Central Section of the proposed Railway. Please redact any personal information like the names of the residents. Also the results so far of the surveys.
You have asked for locations of all requested and executed surveys. This could mean:
- Locations of all surveys requested and all surveys executed;
- Locations of all surveys requested that have been completed.
It is not clear from your Request which meaning was intended.
We can confirm that we hold the results of the surveys that have been carried out to date in relation to the proposed new East West Rail line between Bedford and Cambridge. However, as we’ve explained above, the volume of information and the requirement for us to undertake significant redactions of personal information mean that EWR Co would need to incur excessive cost and resource to provide this information.
In addition, the survey results represent only a part of an incomplete body of data. Again, we have taken the view that disclosure at this stage could be misleading. The data will be
UKM/104992728.8 Continuation 2 3 September 2020
completed and published in due course – both during the statutory consultation on the Scheme in advance of an application for a DCO and through the DCO environmental statement.
2. Documentation of the underlying route trajectory options being evaluated and which are behind the choice of environmental survey sites. We are told that there are no route trajectory options yet. If this is the case, please send the justification for a more blanket approach to these surveys and explain why the surveys we are aware of are all in a straight line from Little Eversden, Harlton, south of Haslingfield and Harston – see https://haslingfieldvillage.co.uk/2020/news/map-of-east-west-rail-environmental-survey- locations/
EWR Co refers to the next level of refinement in designing the proposed new line between Bedford and Cambridge as selecting a preferred “route alignment” (you will recall that we have already selected a preferred route corridor and a preferred route option). This is what we have taken your reference to “route trajectory options” to mean.
We can confirm that a number of potential route alignments are under active consideration at this time, but no final route alignment options have been decided upon. EWR Co’s work in this regard is on-going and the identification, description and consideration of those alignments is not complete.
With respect to the extent of the surveys that we are undertaking, these are spread across the preferred route option area as well as other land outwith but near to the preferred route option area. This is because in many cases we need to survey a larger area in order to obtain information about how the environmental features or species we are studying behave – this is not always limited to the preferred route option area. For example, bat colonies outside the area may still use it for commuting or foraging.
UKM/104992728.8 Continuation 3 3 September 2020
We can confirm that EWR Co is or will be undertaking surveys beyond and in addition to the four areas listed in your Request.
3. A copy of any communications between East West Rail and the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory or related organizations such as the Cavendish Astrophysics Group or the Institute of Astronomy or any organisation you are involved with discussion around planning constraints in relation to EWR and the Mullard Radio Observatory.
We confirm that we hold correspondence between EWR Co and the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory and that discussions with the Observatory are on-going.
We’re not clear what you mean by “related organizations [sic]” and whether you are referring to:
- . Planning constraints in relation to the proposed East West Rail project in general and planning constraints in relation to the Observatory; or
- . Only those planning constraints in relation to the proposed East West Rail project that pertain to the Observatory.
If you would kindly clarify the scope of your request this would enable us to confirm whether we hold the relevant information.
4. Communication between EWR Rail and landowners in the option E area.
We can confirm that we hold this information. The scope of your request is extremely broad and the costs of providing copies of every item of correspondence would be disproportionate and excessive. EWR Co would also be required to redact significant quantities of personal data manually.
We enclose a copy of the template letters that have been sent to landowners within the preferred route option area accompanying our requests to agree licence access for surveys and hope that this is of assistance.
If there are particular landowners that are of interest then please let us know – this may enable us to provide more focussed information in response.
5. Any documentation or communications held about the Eversden and Wimpole Woods is a SAC (European designation – Special Area of Conservation) for Barbastelles bats.
We can confirm that we hold information relating to the identified SAC. Much of this information on SACs is already in the public domain and available to you. For example, you can use the interactive mapping feature at https://magic.defra.gov.uk/MagicMap.aspx to obtain information on a particular SAC.
If there is particular information that is of interest then please provide clarification so that we may confirm whether we hold it.
6. Any documentation or communications on environmental, archaeological or historical constraints in the Option E area.
We can confirm that we hold information relating to environmental and archaeological constraints in the preferred route option area.
It is not clear whether your reference to “historical constraints” means heritage constraints (such as listed buildings, scheduled ancient monuments and so on) or historic constraints that are no longer in force or have been superseded. Please confirm which you mean so that we may confirm whether we hold the information in which you are interested.
Information on environmental constraints is also available to you already at the following website: https://magic.defra.gov.uk/MagicMap.aspx. Details of historical and archaeological assets are also available from the local planning authority and from Historic England.
7. A log of previous FOI requests and their contents (We already aware of 5 FOI requests from CamBedRailRoad)
We can confirm that we maintain a log of requests made under the Act and the EIR.
However, extracting the relevant information and redacting personal information would require a significant amount of manual processing and would entail disproportionate and unreasonable costs.
Thank you for your continued interest in East West Rail, and we look forward to continuing to work together with local groups and community representatives as the project progresses.
UKM/104992728.8 Continuation 4 3 September 2020
If you have any questions about this response, please send them for my attention through the firstname.lastname@example.org email.
Company Secretary, East West Railway Company
UKM/104992728.8 Continuation 5 3 September 2020
Freedom of Information Act 2000
12. — (1) Section 1(1) does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the appropriate limit.
(2) Subsection (1) does not exempt the public authority from its obligation to comply with paragraph (a) of section 1(1) unless the estimated cost of complying with that paragraph alone would exceed the appropriate limit.
(3) In subsections (1) and (2) “the appropriate limit” means such amount as may be prescribed, and different amounts may be prescribed in relation to different cases.[*]
(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations provide that, in such circumstances as may be prescribed, where two or more requests for information are made to a public authority-
(a) by one person, or
(b) by different persons who appear to the public authority to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign,
the estimated cost of complying with any of the requests is to be taken to be the estimated total cost of complying with all of them.
[*] The relevant Regulations which define the appropriate limit for section 12 purposes are The Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulation 2004 SI 2004 No 3244.
Environmental Information Regulations 2004 SI 2004 No 3391
12(4) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(a), a public authority may refuse to disclose information to the extent that –
(b) the request for information is manifestly unreasonable
UKM/104992728.8 Continuation 6 3 September 2020 “