Barnet Council officers refused to provide the data obtained in response to the Council’s public consultation on the controversial proposed Hornsey to North Finchley “Barnet Cycleway”.
The consultation was carried out in June and July 2019, but it was only in mid- December that the report was released on the Council consultation website, even though the draft report was discussed with local councillors as long ago as 2 September. However, when Friern Barnet & Whetstone Residents Association (FBWRA) made a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request to the Council in late October, asking for the consultation data to be provided, the Council responded, nearly a month later, refusing the request on the basis of an exemption from the FOI for information that is “in course of completion, unfinished or incomplete” applied. As FBWRA Chairman David Thompson put it – “ The FOI request was for full data sets of aggregated responses to the consultation. As the consultation closed in July it does not seem credible that the results had not been aggregated ( to the extent that this was required) more than four months later. In fact, when I reported the Council response to the FBWRA Committee in early December the reaction was disbelieving laughter! “
David also commented “ I had an email from a Council officer in late September from which it is clear that at that time-
- the results of the consultation had been analysed; and
- “the results of the consultation show a mix of support and concern across the route” – so the results were known, otherwise that conclusion could not have been reached,
yet the aggregated data sets were supposedly still “in the course of completion, unfinished or incomplete” almost 2 months later, in late November” . If the data was still incomplete in November, how was it possible for the results to have been analysed and a draft report produced by early September?
Were Council officers seeking to keep the consultation results quiet until they had worked out how to handle a series of unwelcome results arising from the consultation?
The subsequent release of the report on the Consultation shows that the proposals are massively unpopular-only 37.6% of those responding agreed or strongly agreed with the proposals for the Cycleway overall while 56.4% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Opposition to the plans for the Buxted Road/ Ashurst Road junction was even stronger – here only 25.6% of those responding agreed or strongly agreed with the proposal while 73.1% disagreed or strongly disagreed. We understand that, undaunted by this set-back, Council officers will seek Councillor approval to press ahead.