I have made a formal request to the Department of Culture etc for release of the written statements made by the 38 applicants. These consist of the answers to 22 largely factual and anodyne questions ( http://www.culture.gov.uk/images/consultations/WHN_application_form_guidance_note.pdf
) but apparently cannot be released "automatically"!!.
There are 2 UK regulations regarding release of information
a. The Freedom of Information act (FoI)
b. The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR)
Somewhat surprisingly it has been decided that matters relating to WHS come under the latter
("We now consider any information regarding heritage sites, listing of buildings etc. to be covered under EIR instead of FoI, further explanation can be found under the heading 'What is Environmental Information?' within http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/policy/opengov/eir/pdf/publicity/leaflet-publicauth orities.pdf
Being a suspicious type I wondered if these latter regulations were more restrictive regarding release but have been told "I can confirm that the use of EIR does not mean that we can withhold more information than under FoI. As explained in the DEFRA leaflet the exceptions under EIR are generally narrower and this means that information is more prone to be released."
The potential reasons why this information might not be released are
"Regarding the future publication of the application forms we consider that some elements may be subject to exceptions 12 (5) (e) - Confidentiality of commercial or industrial information and 12(5) (f) Interests of the person who provided the information, of the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR). Both exceptions require a public interest test to be carried out into whether the balance of interest lies in withholding or releasing the information.
It will be interesting to see what decision is made -I am supposed to receive a response one way or the other within 20 days!
On June 14 I made a request for the list of applications to be released and this was done -though I am not claiming that this was due to my request!! However they took the opportunity that my request then made didn't specifically request the documents themselves, to "opt out" of doing so on the basis that a lot of different bodies would have to be canvassed to see if they wanted to claim exemptions under 12 (5) e and f above. This seems somewhat specious - what confidential/commercial information can be contained in such an application?
I look forward to discovering
a. Which bodies have submitted the applications - they don't have to be public and could be groups of private individuals
b. What sort of case they made out regarding OUV
c. What sort of costs they envisaged to be involved in fully working up a Nomination and achieving an inscription.
My "Public Interest" arguments were as follows
"a. Whilst I am sure that those persons appointed to review the applications will be experts in their subjects there may well be claims which have been made in the completed application forms which others with specific knowledge of the sites and their backgrounds would have debate with or could even add to.
b. Given the likely future costs of progressing an application I believe it to be important that the claims made by any public bodies involved in making an application should come under the earliest possible public scrutiny
c. Any private groups making applications should be "open" to scrutiny given possible conflicts of interest between their desire to have a site appear on the list and the interests of others with alternative views. I would point out that just getting a site on the Tentative List, even if this is never progressed through to a formal inscription nomination, can have significant impacts (both positive and negative according to one's viewpoint) on tourism volumes, property values, planning restrictions etc etc. I find it amazing that some unknown "interest group" can apparently make an anonymous application.
d. In these days of open government the presumption on matters such as this should normally be in favour of publication to ensure the fullest public support for such decisions as may be made.