FOI request detail

Elephant and Castle planning application information

Request ID: FOI-3015-1920
Date published: 31 January 2020

You asked

TfL Ref. 2677-1920 Thank you for your thoroughness, but you appear to have searched for information beyond the scope of my request. My request followed the wording of one paragraph of your response ref. 2334-1920 on 22 November (please see ‘Following your refined request, we have conducted a few searches for completeness...’). In this paragraph, it was stated that the searches of these keywords resulted in 526 ‘hits’. Therefore, I would consider my request reasonably met by just the emails from the 606 ‘hits’ generated by adding two more email domains (‘’ and ‘’) to your original searches and using the same keywords [1) ‘elephant and castle’ ‘elephant & castle’ ‘e&c’ – 593; 2) ‘16/ap/4458’ – 8; 3) ‘TGL190331’ ‘LN113754’ ‘271661’ ‘LN51641’ – 5] To be clear, I do not request the emails of individuals within TfL that ‘most likely have been involved in [these] communications’ nor the results of a wider search that may produce over 6,000 emails. I trust this clarification of the scope of my request brings it within the cost limits, but if this is not the case I would be grateful if you could advise me what information may be available within the limit. I understand that this is a recommended action by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

We answered

TfL Ref: 3015-1920

Thank you for your request received by Transport for London (TfL) on 8 January 2020 asking for information about a planning application in Elephant and Castle.

Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Information Regulations and TfL’s information access policy. I can confirm we do hold the information you require.

Following our previous response to you under reference 2677-1920, you revised your request by asking for the results of the search which resulted in 606 hits in total that we carried out in relation to that particular request.

We are applying Regulation 12(4)(b) to your request as we believe that the request is ‘manifestly unreasonable’ because locating, extracting and collating all the information you have requested would impose unreasonable costs on us and require an unreasonable diversion of resources.

As we explained in our previous response, the work involved in reviewing all the emails identified in both the searches we carried out in relation to that request which includes the narrower one which resulted in the 606 matches, would impose an unreasonable burden on us.

For your current request, we have again ran some email searches using the criteria you have asked us to use as above to verify our results from the previous searches and also to check how many of the hits actually contain email trails and attachments within them as we previously advised was likely to be the case. Our further search has found that of the 606 matches, 218 of the email files contain at least one attachment. Clearly in some instances there will be more than one attachment and they will be of varying sizes. So, the position is that as well as reviewing the original 606 emails, we would also need to manually review every attachment within those emails which would clearly increase the processing time and resource required to complete your request. We are therefore refusing your request on these grounds.

The use of this exception is subject to a public interest test, which requires us to consider whether the public interest in applying the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosure. We recognise that the release of information would promote accountability and transparency in public services and also help address your particular concerns about this issue. However, the time it would take to provide the information you have requested would divert a disproportionate amount of our resources from its core functions and on balance we consider that the public interest currently favours the use of the exception. It is notable that your request is not related to a specific element of the scheme and instead encompasses any emails which happen to fit within the broad search criteria specified and is therefore difficult to fully establish how the public interest may be better served by the diversion of specialist resources from their core duties to fulfilling this request. For the reasons outlined above, we consider that the public interest favours the exception to ensure that we are able to continue to make the best possible use of the limited and specialist resources we have available to us.

We will consider your request again, if you are able to narrow its scope so that we can more easily locate, retrieve and extract the information you are seeking for example by requesting a specific document or element of the Elephant & Castle development that you are particularly interested in.  You may find it more beneficial to ask specific questions based on the recorded information we hold, rather than a very broad request for correspondence which is more likely to raise concerns around the resource required to process the request, as well as incorporate information which would be likely to be of limited value.

By their nature, email ‘fishing’ requests can generate a significant amount of information which is likely to be of very limited value and so are more likely to achieve a positive outcome if you are able to be as specific as possible as to the information you require.

In making any future request I would ask that you consider carefully what information is of most importance to you, and to take into account the guidance and advice provided by the ICO such as the “dos and don’ts” published on its website here:

Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal.

Yours sincerely

Sara Thomas

FOI Case Officer

FOI Case Management Team

General Counsel

Transport for London

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