NI Council spends £20k to fight court ruling to reveal ‘secret’ document

Almost £20k has been paid out in legal fees by an NI council in a legal challenge to a directive ordering publication of a Masterplan at Craigavon Lakes.
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Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council was asked to reveal the South Lakes Masterplan by the Information Commissioner after a legal bid by a resident.

Kelly Laverty, a campaigner to Save Craigavon Lakes, launched the bid after being denied access to the document despite several Freedom of Information requests.

The Council fought the legal challenge but lost and was ordered by the courts to reveal the document.

Doug BeattieDoug Beattie
Doug Beattie

However, the council launched its appeal against this decision, and the appeal alone has cost ratepayers almost £20,000.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie discovered the bill via his own Freedom of Information request.

He had asked council: “What is the total legal and other related costs to Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council in their legal challenge against the Information Commissioner and Kelly Laverty EA/2019/0225 in respect to the South Lakes Master Plan.”

The council response: “The cost to council is £19,716.80.”

Artist impression of the proposed Southern Regional College campus at CraigavonArtist impression of the proposed Southern Regional College campus at Craigavon
Artist impression of the proposed Southern Regional College campus at Craigavon

Mr Beattie branded the bill ‘‘truly ridiculous’ and asked if councillors had been informed of the legal fees in relation to the case.

He also said the £20k was merely the legal fees for the appeal and was concerned just how much council was paying in legal fees to keep this document secret.

Mr Beattie said that even councillors sitting on ABC Council have been refused sight of this document and asked if councillors had sanctioned such a high spend on legal fees to keep the South Lakes Master Plan secret.

A spokesperson for Save Craigavon Lakes said it is ‘a lot of money to prevent us seeing their plans for our park’.

A spokesperson for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council said: “As this is an on-going court case, council will not be issuing any statement at this time.”

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