Watford Borough Council told to release health campus financial report ahead of Farm Terrace Allotments High Court battle

Watford Observer: Farm Terrace Allotments. Farm Terrace Allotments.

Council bosses have lost the fight to keep financial figures underpinning the Watford health campus secret ahead of the High Court battle over the Farm Terrace Allotments.

Watford Borough Council argued it should not have to release a report containing the sums that led it to argue the 118-year-old allotments were needed to make the redevelopment financially "viable".

However a judge at the High Court has ruled the council should hand over the report and other documents relating to the scheme to the allotment-holders' legal team.

Following the ruling Sara Jane Trebar, spokesman for the Farm Terrace Community Association, said: "This ruling is very good news indeed and will strengthen our case considerably."

Farm Terrace Allotment holders are challenging the second decision by Communities and Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, to allow the allotment land to be built over in the health campus scheme.

The scheme promises to redevelop the land behind Vicarage Road with up to 750 new homes, businesses and leave room for new hospital facilities.

The Secretary of State made the decision on the basis that without the allotments "the Watford Health Campus Scheme would not be economically viable and that wider public benefits of improved hospital facilities, housing and green spaces would not be realised".

The plot-holders' solicitors, Deighton Pierce Glynn, say their challenge hinges on two questions: Did the evidence Mr Pickles have evidence to show that the health campus could not work without the allotments and was his evidence accurate and up to date.

As such the solicitors have applied for the council to release the sums in a report by accountants Grant Thornton that showed the scheme was not "viable" without the allotmemts.

The allotment holders also asked the council to release details of when changes were made to the health campus masterplan, which was eventually released on January.

As well as this they have challenged the council and the hospital to release any communications or minutes that showed there were "firm proposals" to build new hospital facilities in the scheme.

The council did release headline figures in the Grant Thornton report about the health campus’s finances.

These projections showed that without the allotments the council’s projected return of £9,895,000 from the scheme turned into a £3,369,000 loss. Likewise the hospital trust’s returns went from £2,036,000 to £715,000.

However the council refused to release the full report to the court, arguing it was confidential.

It said: "In all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information."

Watford Observer:

Latest health campus masterplan.

The council also said it could not release a paper trail detailing the development of the health campus masterplan because it had been developed via an "enormous amount of iterative project working".

It added: "Only from formal meetings - such as the LABV board or the council’s cabinet - do a whole host of options, issues, changes and drafts become crystallised into firm recommendations and decisions. It is simply not possible to provide, on a dynamic scheme of this scale, a precise suite of conclusive documentation."

Following the ruling a spokesman for Watford Borough Council said: "As part of the Judicial Review process the claimant’s lawyers have asked for disclosure of a number of documents.

"We have, as far as we are able complied with the order for disclosure, which was an agreed order. Claimants have also served a further witness statement which we have also responded to."

Comments (12)

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9:36am Fri 4 Jul 14

ancientandageing says...

It doesn’t take much reading between the lines and joining dots to realise that, the withheld information undermines the case for putting a car park and houses on the allotments, the law was put in place to stop building houses on allotments and I think the docs will clearly show that there is an element of pretence and overstatement about new health facilities.
It may go even further and show that any future health provision will likely involve increasing private provision of dental/eye/cosmetic surgery and not local NHS services for people in Watford.
Lets get back to the original model of an expanded hospital with a teaching roll and some affordable housing as oppossed to this housing flood plane housing estate
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines and joining dots to realise that, the withheld information undermines the case for putting a car park and houses on the allotments, the law was put in place to stop building houses on allotments and I think the docs will clearly show that there is an element of pretence and overstatement about new health facilities. It may go even further and show that any future health provision will likely involve increasing private provision of dental/eye/cosmetic surgery and not local NHS services for people in Watford. Lets get back to the original model of an expanded hospital with a teaching roll and some affordable housing as oppossed to this housing flood plane housing estate ancientandageing
  • Score: 11

10:20am Fri 4 Jul 14

garston tony says...

Until the reports contents are revealed its only an assumption that you are making ancientandageing, however possibly a fair one. Not sure it will contain much details from the NHS as its the WBC plan.

But this is something all residents of Watford should know not just those with an allotment, its all our money that has been pumped into this (was it two million so far) after all
Until the reports contents are revealed its only an assumption that you are making ancientandageing, however possibly a fair one. Not sure it will contain much details from the NHS as its the WBC plan. But this is something all residents of Watford should know not just those with an allotment, its all our money that has been pumped into this (was it two million so far) after all garston tony
  • Score: 14

11:28am Fri 4 Jul 14

feliuk says...

After all the information released, we now know that this has nothing to do with a health campus, but it is actually a pretence to just build more homes plain and simple. If this is the case then the allotments should not be touched and Watford borough council should explain to all the Watford residents what they were up to.
After all the information released, we now know that this has nothing to do with a health campus, but it is actually a pretence to just build more homes plain and simple. If this is the case then the allotments should not be touched and Watford borough council should explain to all the Watford residents what they were up to. feliuk
  • Score: 14

11:33am Fri 4 Jul 14

Phil Cox (UKIP) says...

I hope the truth will come out but I have no faith whatsoever in the LibDem-run council playing fair and square over this.

The LibDems have done all they can to hide the information in the past and avoid straight answers to straight questions, I suspect they will only produce exactly what they have been asked for. If you don't know what documents exist, how can you accurately ask to see them?

Good to to SJT and the team, I hope they win because it is what they deserve.
I hope the truth will come out but I have no faith whatsoever in the LibDem-run council playing fair and square over this. The LibDems have done all they can to hide the information in the past and avoid straight answers to straight questions, I suspect they will only produce exactly what they have been asked for. If you don't know what documents exist, how can you accurately ask to see them? Good to to SJT and the team, I hope they win because it is what they deserve. Phil Cox (UKIP)
  • Score: 7

12:14pm Fri 4 Jul 14

ancientandageing says...

@garston Tony
I think assumptions are all we will get here, my take on it is that just becouse the info is disclosed for proceadings dor=esn't mean it is free to be publicised outside of the court.
The partys will have to produce witness statements and the inclusion of documents may even be challanged at this stage, sections may be redacted, and so on, as such there is a good chance we will never be allowed to know many of the details
@garston Tony I think assumptions are all we will get here, my take on it is that just becouse the info is disclosed for proceadings dor=esn't mean it is free to be publicised outside of the court. The partys will have to produce witness statements and the inclusion of documents may even be challanged at this stage, sections may be redacted, and so on, as such there is a good chance we will never be allowed to know many of the details ancientandageing
  • Score: 1

12:45pm Fri 4 Jul 14

TRT says...

This also links in with the story about the hurling pitch. The only reason the Irish Club and the hurling team are having to be relocated is down to their field being stolen for a link road. When I've approached the councillors about this, I've been told that from day 1 the Hospital Trust have insisted that there's an upgraded road to link to the M1 - that's an admission that the hospital is simply in the wrong place. The hospital has outgrown the town's infrastructure, pure and simple. There's been a flurry of reports in the WO about asbestos exposure, failed pumps, nurses pay versus management bonuses... very soon I fear that the trust will go bankrupt like others have. That means there will be not even so much as a new magazine in the waiting rooms, let alone new clinics, so the whole Health Campus project will deliver diddly-squat in terms of health but still make a tidy sum for Kier and others. Any profits the trust makes will be sucked up by their poor finances. I expect that is what the hidden financial analysis will reveal - that they need to build on the allotments just to stop the trust going bust in the next five years. The council propping up the NHS - that's not how it's supposed to work.
This also links in with the story about the hurling pitch. The only reason the Irish Club and the hurling team are having to be relocated is down to their field being stolen for a link road. When I've approached the councillors about this, I've been told that from day 1 the Hospital Trust have insisted that there's an upgraded road to link to the M1 - that's an admission that the hospital is simply in the wrong place. The hospital has outgrown the town's infrastructure, pure and simple. There's been a flurry of reports in the WO about asbestos exposure, failed pumps, nurses pay versus management bonuses... very soon I fear that the trust will go bankrupt like others have. That means there will be not even so much as a new magazine in the waiting rooms, let alone new clinics, so the whole Health Campus project will deliver diddly-squat in terms of health but still make a tidy sum for Kier and others. Any profits the trust makes will be sucked up by their poor finances. I expect that is what the hidden financial analysis will reveal - that they need to build on the allotments just to stop the trust going bust in the next five years. The council propping up the NHS - that's not how it's supposed to work. TRT
  • Score: 7

5:29pm Fri 4 Jul 14

Veritas says...

yes, we pay taxes for new hospitals etc, not to have our assets sold off for the short term, Yet the Developers would be making a really fantastic
profit? Something is not right here!!!!!

In fact the amount of money this Pathetic, cheating Council has wasted
could have even subsidised the Hospital bill (in theory)

We only hope that all the false letters and propaganda dished out by Dotty and her motley group of Cronies is finally exposed and they
have to answer for them.

And will the Watford Observer finally stop calling it a Health Campus.

I hear you are looking very pale and worried Daft Dotty
yes, we pay taxes for new hospitals etc, not to have our assets sold off for the short term, Yet the Developers would be making a really fantastic profit? Something is not right here!!!!! In fact the amount of money this Pathetic, cheating Council has wasted could have even subsidised the Hospital bill (in theory) We only hope that all the false letters and propaganda dished out by Dotty and her motley group of Cronies is finally exposed and they have to answer for them. And will the Watford Observer finally stop calling it a Health Campus. I hear you are looking very pale and worried Daft Dotty Veritas
  • Score: 9

9:00pm Fri 4 Jul 14

Cuetip says...

feliuk wrote:
After all the information released, we now know that this has nothing to do with a health campus, but it is actually a pretence to just build more homes plain and simple. If this is the case then the allotments should not be touched and Watford borough council should explain to all the Watford residents what they were up to.
On this wealth campus, do you think the people of Watford might get a couple of prefibs sorry I meant prefabs built on the car park and money used to create a 'Free Hospital' elsewhere as the population continues to explode as with current education policy?
[quote][p][bold]feliuk[/bold] wrote: After all the information released, we now know that this has nothing to do with a health campus, but it is actually a pretence to just build more homes plain and simple. If this is the case then the allotments should not be touched and Watford borough council should explain to all the Watford residents what they were up to.[/p][/quote]On this wealth campus, do you think the people of Watford might get a couple of prefibs sorry I meant prefabs built on the car park and money used to create a 'Free Hospital' elsewhere as the population continues to explode as with current education policy? Cuetip
  • Score: 7

10:13am Sun 6 Jul 14

Wacko Jacko says...

It was inevitable that arguments based on financial viability would be challenged in court, and the only fair way that can be done is if the developers are open about what the costs are.
What has always been obvious to me is that position of the allotments within the site severely compromises the ability to deliver an effective plan for the hospital. This is a practical issue not a financial one.
My view remains that relocation of the allotments is the only way to deliver a satisfactory long term regeneration plan for the area which will be of benefit to all residents.
It was inevitable that arguments based on financial viability would be challenged in court, and the only fair way that can be done is if the developers are open about what the costs are. What has always been obvious to me is that position of the allotments within the site severely compromises the ability to deliver an effective plan for the hospital. This is a practical issue not a financial one. My view remains that relocation of the allotments is the only way to deliver a satisfactory long term regeneration plan for the area which will be of benefit to all residents. Wacko Jacko
  • Score: 1

12:20pm Sun 6 Jul 14

Veritas says...

more waffle from Jacko yet again, it is amazing that he can come
out with such rubbish.

"YOUR VIEW" will be exposed for what it is, when it comes
to court.
more waffle from Jacko yet again, it is amazing that he can come out with such rubbish. "YOUR VIEW" will be exposed for what it is, when it comes to court. Veritas
  • Score: 2

12:51pm Sun 6 Jul 14

Wacko Jacko says...

Veritas wrote:
more waffle from Jacko yet again, it is amazing that he can come
out with such rubbish.

"YOUR VIEW" will be exposed for what it is, when it comes
to court.
Actually no, the judicial review will look at whether the secretary of State acted lawfully in coming to his decision, and will rule on that aspect.
It's not their business to look at the merits or otherwise of the Health Campus proposal itself.
[quote][p][bold]Veritas[/bold] wrote: more waffle from Jacko yet again, it is amazing that he can come out with such rubbish. "YOUR VIEW" will be exposed for what it is, when it comes to court.[/p][/quote]Actually no, the judicial review will look at whether the secretary of State acted lawfully in coming to his decision, and will rule on that aspect. It's not their business to look at the merits or otherwise of the Health Campus proposal itself. Wacko Jacko
  • Score: -4

9:39am Tue 8 Jul 14

ancientandageing says...

Wacko Jacko wrote:
Veritas wrote:
more waffle from Jacko yet again, it is amazing that he can come
out with such rubbish.

"YOUR VIEW" will be exposed for what it is, when it comes
to court.
Actually no, the judicial review will look at whether the secretary of State acted lawfully in coming to his decision, and will rule on that aspect.
It's not their business to look at the merits or otherwise of the Health Campus proposal itself.
I think that the response that was given from WBC and sec of state that (in simple terms) included an assertion that the allotment was neaded for the health campus (inference not housing) is of relevance to that decision. Therfore it is entirly relevant, becouse WBC and Pickles have made it so.
[quote][p][bold]Wacko Jacko[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Veritas[/bold] wrote: more waffle from Jacko yet again, it is amazing that he can come out with such rubbish. "YOUR VIEW" will be exposed for what it is, when it comes to court.[/p][/quote]Actually no, the judicial review will look at whether the secretary of State acted lawfully in coming to his decision, and will rule on that aspect. It's not their business to look at the merits or otherwise of the Health Campus proposal itself.[/p][/quote]I think that the response that was given from WBC and sec of state that (in simple terms) included an assertion that the allotment was neaded for the health campus (inference not housing) is of relevance to that decision. Therfore it is entirly relevant, becouse WBC and Pickles have made it so. ancientandageing
  • Score: 1
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