Senior Sheffield councillor complains after officers hide his public objection to a planning application

The senior councillor in charge of transport at Sheffield Council has complained after officers heavily redacted his opposition to a planning application.

By Lucy Ashton, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 2:02 pm

Coun Douglas Johnson, Executive member for transport, is concerned a new road layout around the planned West Bar Square development could be dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.

He emailed an objection in his role as a City ward councillor but was shocked when he saw it had been heavily blacked out on the public planning portal.

He says he was unaware it would be redacted and did not wish for it to be blanked out. The Greens have raised concerns with chief executive Kate Josephs and the monitoring officer about the number of redactions happening in general with documents.

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Sheffield Cllr Douglas Johnson. Picture Scott Merrylees

The council has blamed “human error” and says it will make sure Coun Johnson’s objection can now be read fully.

Coun Johnson said officers needed more training. “I have no idea why my public comment about a contentious planning application was redacted. I was not asked about it.

“I wanted to make clear my concerns about road safety at the West Bar development site.

“It is important elected representatives are held accountable and that their public statements are just that – public.

The redacted email.

“I understand it was human error and I hope the team responsible can have some training on when there is a genuine need to redact documents and when it simply makes the council look like it has something to hide. There was nothing to hide in my comments.”

It comes just a couple of weeks after the council was criticised for heavily redacting documents relating to Sheffield International Venues following a Freedom of Information Request.

In relation to those redactions, council director Mark Gannon said the authority was “absolutely committed” to people’s right to know about its activities and “strongly operated a presumption in favour of disclosure”.

West Bar Square is a £300m regeneration scheme, including 100,000 sq ft of high quality office space.

Coun Johnson, and his fellow City ward councillors, are concerned proposals to increase the amount of traffic on Bridge Street and to make it two-way could make it dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.