“STOCKPORT Council officers who failed to alert their own standards body of an e-mail which called for “political pressure” to be brought to bear on councillors over the controversial school at Reddish’s Harcourt Street, have been rapped over the knuckles.

The email exchange was revealed after anti-Harcourt Street campaigner Sheila Oliver requested the release of documents under the Freedom of Information Act on negotiations between outside contractor GVA Grimley and NPS, an arms length Council firm.

The email from GVA Grimley’s Rob Peters to NPS’s Chris Woolard came just three weeks before a decision was made on the school on the former dump site by the Tame Valley Area Committee on July 30, 2007.

In the email Peters asks Woolard if anyone at the Council can ‘help out’.

Peters states in the email: “It may be worth considering whether anyone can apply political pressure to the Committee Members, through lobbying in advance?”

When the e-mail came to light, Mrs Oliver and residents opposed to the new school, complained to the Standards Committee about possible breaches.

In a ruling made last month, a Standards Committee decided that while there were no attempts to influence the decision in favour of building a school at Harcourt Street, it ruled the authority’s monitoring officer should remind officers of their responsibilities.

It stated: “When consultants are engaged in the future to carry out work for the Council on planning and development related activities, that they are made fully aware that any action intended to put members under political pressure to determine issues in a particular way is totally inappropriate and will not be tolerated.”

Mrs Oliver who first brought the e-mail to light said: “To be honest the ruling by the Standards Committee raises more questions than it answers. For instance, why was this approach suggesting applying ‘political pressure’ by an outside consultant not brought to the attention of the committee by a Council officer?”

Council Labour group leader, Councillor Peter Scott, said he was alarmed by the approach of the outside consultant adding: “I think this is something we would want to look into and I would like to see a thorough investigation.”

A Council spokesman said: “Council officers are unable to control what is written or suggested by people outside the local authority. However, senior officers in the Council are fully aware of the processes for dealing with planning applications, and as a consequence the suggestion presented by the consultants in the email was ignored. The Council strongly refutes any allegation that political pressures were put on any members of Tame Valley Area Committee.”

A spokesman for GVA Grimley said: “Any applicant for planning permission and/or any third party has the opportunity, legitimately as part of the planning process, to engage with democratically elected members who sit on a Planning Committee.”



Dear Mrs Oliver,

reasons I gave you the verbal answer and forwarded on a copy of my text was
given in the very first sentence of my response. I could not, / would
not allow your assertions to go unchallenged.

can also assure you no political pressure was put on any councillors from
any party to secure the planning permission.This underestimates the quality and
independence of councillors from all parties. Indeed could you seriously
imagine that I or anyone else could pressurise for example Cllr Hogg into
accepting an application against his judgement ?



From: sheilaoliver
Sent: Tue 19/02/2008 20:47
To: Cllr Mark Weldon
Cc: Donna Sager
Subject: Re: Executive Meeting

Dear Councillor Weldon

One way round this impasse is to give me written answers, as I requested.

Your transgressions are forgiven, of course.

I have no reason to trust Ms Sager and I don’t think she will be able to
understand the complex issues without explanation.

I was thinking of writing a letter to the Stockport Express, explaining the
question I asked you last night and pointing out that you really couldn’t
have cared any less. I have documentary evidence that on a sister site,
which the Council admits has nothing dangerous on it even 25 years ago the
investigations were carried out to a much higher standard – the standard
which should have been applied at Harcourt Street regarding a strict grid
pattern (BS10175) and wasn’t. Do you want to head me off at the
pass? I am
quite willing to show you the evidence I have which has convinced the press
and the two councillors on the planning committee who strained themselves to
look at it (the LibDems couldn’t be bothered, but it would appear they were
subjected to political pressure to vote the way they did). We shall see
regarding that point in the fullness of time.

Lots of love

—– Original Message —–
From: “Cllr Mark Weldon” <cllr.mark.weldon@stockport.gov.uk>
To: “sheilaoliver” <sheilaoliver@ntlworld.com>
Cc: “Donna Sager” <donna.sager@stockport.gov.uk>
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 7:36 PM
Subject: RE: Executive Meeting

Dear Mrs Oliver,

Please accept my apologies. It did not register with me that I was only a
“cc” recipient of your previous email, and not the target of your

In my defence I have often been accused by you of misdeeds and / or of
having said something of which I was completely innocent.

On a not unrelated point you quoted me from last night that I’d arranged for
a meeting with Mrs Sagar, whereas I had done no such thing as my written
response shows.

I did however ask for you to send copies of any correspondence relating to
the Harcourt Street site to Mrs Sagar. I would happily arrange the refund of
the photocopying costs.


Mark Weldon

—–Original Message—–
From: “sheilaoliver” <sheilaoliver@ntlworld.com>
To: “Cllr Mark Weldon” <cllr.mark.weldon@stockport.gov.uk>
Cc: “Donna Sager” <donna.sager@stockport.gov.uk>
Sent: 19/02/08 17:34
Subject: Re: Executive Meeting

Dear Councillor Weldon

You have again misrepresented what I emailed; that is why I always keep
copies of your correspondence. My email was addressed Ms Sager (stating
Dear Ms Sager) and it was she who colluded with the illegal FOI refusal.
She knew it was only maybe four of her folders. How could that take 84
hours to read through and “redact” before I could see them?
That prejudiced
a legal hearing. The issue is with the Information Commissioner. I
mention you with regard to FOI abuses and I am delighted you are a supporter
of the Act.

Due to your interminably long and waffling replies, I am convinced these
misunderstandings will continue. I have told you before that you
keep things simple, especially with your unintelligability. I am
sure you
mentioned the word meeting. I would have no intention of leaving my
documents with Ms Sager, and I doubt she would be able to understand them
without explanation. Are you saying that no meeting will now take place?
Then I shall have to keep questioning you on the subject until it does.

Kind regards


—– Original Message —–
From: Cllr Mark Weldon <mailto:cllr.mark.weldon@stockport.gov.uk>
To: sheilaoliver <mailto:sheilaoliver@ntlworld.com>
; Donna Sager
Cc: John Schultz <mailto:chief.executive@stockport.gov.uk>
; Jane Scullion
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 12:44 PM
Subject: RE: Executive Meeting

Mrs Oliver,
You have again misrepresented what I said at the executive meeting. I stated
quite clearly that if you were in possession of any documentation relating
to the Harcourt street site that were not in the possession of the council
for you to send copies to Mrs Sagar at CYPD.

I attach a copy of my statement which I read out to show that you again have
not taken on board the meaning of my response. This is why I keep a copy of
my responses to avoid all the unnecessary confusion.

I must protest that you allege I have colluded with denying any FoI request.
I have always been a strong supporter of FoI . This is despite the danger
that persons misrepresent documents and estimates from the past as some
sort of proof of some imagined misdeeds and conspiracy, whereas it merely
shows an evolving complex situation being dealt with as reasonably and
professionally as possible.



From: sheilaoliver [mailto:sheilaoliver@ntlworld.com]
Sent: Mon 18/02/2008 21:26
To: Donna Sager
Cc: Cllr Mark Weldon; John Schultz; Jane Scullion
Subject: Executive Meeting

Dear Ms Sager

Cllr Weldon stated at tonight’s executive meeting that you would meet with
me to go through documents not already in the possession of the Council
which show the Harcourt site has not been thoroughly investigated for

Whilst, unfortunately, I have no reason to believe in your honesty given
that you colluded in the refusal of FOI documents supposedly which would
take 84 hours to read, when you must have known the maybe four folders of
your documents would not have taken that long to read, I welcome this
opportunity to put these contamination documents in front of a senior
council officer, so that when further expensive testing becomes necessary,
the Council will not be able to deny knowledge of the facts.

I will come at a time to suit you.


PS I must make time to bring to the public’s attention that I have been
waiting for an explanation of this appalling behaviour, which prejudiced a
legal case, from Mr Schultz and Ms Scullion since last July. I note the
Leader stated responses must be given within 10 working days, no matter how
exalted the personage involved.

This email, and any files transmitted with it, is confidential and
intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they
are addressed. As a public body, the Council may be required to disclose
this email, or any response to it, under the Freedom of Information Act
2000, unless the information in it is covered by one of the exemptions in
the Act.

If you receive this email in error please notify Stockport ICT, Business
Services via email.query@stockport.gov.uk
and then permanently remove it
from your system.

Thank you.



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