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Tribunal orders Southwark to disclose Heygate viability information

The London Borough of Southwark is to disclose parts of the viability assessment submitted by developer Lend Lease as part of its regeneration of the Heygate Estate in London's Elephant and Castle, a Tribunal judge has decided.

Southwark had brought a challenge to a decision by the Information Commissioner's Office last year ordering the Council to publish a full version of the viability assessment after it had published a redacted version.

The Tribunal judge acknowledged that details of Lend Lease's development model contained in the viability assessment were a trade secret. The judge said that the harm to the developer of disclosing that information outweighed the public interest benefits of disclosure.

"There is a real risk that future commercial customers would use Lend Lease’s projections to their advantage in negotiations. This would be damaging to Lend Lease’s profit; and risk a knock on effect if not on the viability of the whole project, at least on the delivery of its social content," the judge said.

However the judge said that, once the operating model and the projections on commercial negotiations had been safeguarded, the rest of the other information in the viability assessment was less commercially sensitive.

"When it comes to the rest of the information, in our judgment the balance is different and the importance, in this particular project, of local people having access to information to allow them to participate in the planning process outweighs the public interest in maintaining the remaining rights of Lend Lease and those subcontractors who contributed to the document," the judge said.

The judge said that Lend Lease and Southwark should reach joint agreement within 28 days on the material which should be disclosed. 

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