A Freedom of Information response has revealed that a public promise by a senior councillor to hold two investigations into what went wrong over the Meedies visitor centre proposals was a lie.
After Fife Council’s Executive Committee recognised mistakes were made in the consultation process for the new Lochore Meadows visitor centre, residents have been further let down with details now emerging that the promised investigations into the multiple errors were never raised at Fife Council, either with employees or with Steve Grimmond (Fife Council Chief Executive), as pledged publicly by senior councillor Mark Hood.
At a packed public meeting of over 200 residents held on 14 November 2016, residents heard the Chair of the Cowdenbeath Area Committee, Cllr Hood said:
“There’s two things that come on the back of this that was actually kicked off prior to today because we knew, and that is a formal investigation by the Chief Executive with regards to the operation of the consultation process and the second thing is, because there is another issue, an internal investigation within the council with regards to information that was provided inappropriately to the community which has added to that confusion so there’s two aspects there.
We are clearly going to be asking for the Chief Executive to investigate both of those processes.”
Despite claiming that the investigations had already started and then contradicting himself by saying that an investigation is going to be requested, Cllr Hood nevertheless reinforces the public promises later in the meeting, when he states:
“We have made a commitment for full public disclosure on the investigations that are carried out with regards of how we’ve arrived at this point as I think you as a community deserve an answer to why this didn’t happen.”
To establish what actions Cllr Hood took to follow through on his public commitment, we requested copies of all communications which included letters, emails, notes of meetings, notes of telephone conversations and any other documentation between Cllr Hood and councillors, Fife Council employees, Sports Scotland, Fife Countryside & Coastal Trust and any members of the public.
The FOI reveals that no actions were ever taken by Cllr Hood to make good on his public pledge.
A set of internal communications between Fife Council employees tasked with researching and providing the data requested responds to a colleague:
“Just to confirm I have had no correspondence on any of the issues raised below and I have had no correspondence with any Councillors on this proposal.”
In direct response to our FOI, Fife Council has provided the following response:
No information held.
Please find attached information provided*. The Service advised all other information is available on the e-planning portal, http://planning.fife.gov.uk/online/
Chief Executive’s Service
The Service advised they received two complaints from a member of the public relating to concerns about the determination process for the planning application ref 16/01280/FULL. The complaints were dated 07/12/2016 and 20/12/2016. The complaints were investigated and responded to by Planning Services. No other information held.
Area Services (Parks)
The Service advised no information held.
In terms of telephone calls, Fife Council does not record the vast majority of outgoing and incoming calls. The only telephone calls which are recorded, are calls received into and placed by the Contact Centre, and are held for a maximum of three months. Calls made to and from staff, to internal and external numbers, are not recorded.
*Email Attachment: Download PDF
At the second public meeting of 200+ residents in December, a decisive vote rejected the plans for a new centre. In this rejection, they were joined by the Benarty Forum, Lochore Meadows Advisory Panel, Benarty & Lochgelly Community Councils, former Lochs councillor Willie Clark, various current Labour, SNP and Conservative councillors for the area, as well as the constituency MSP Annabelle Ewing.
Cllr Hood has insisted on more than one occasion that “we need to take the community with us”, but despite all his public promises, which included not only these two investiagtions but also a promise to abide by the vote of the second meeting, he sat on the Executive Committee and helped push through the controversial plans.