Editor uses FoI to make council reveal report

The Kent Messenger revealed how plans for a new arts centre were scrapped after costs escalated to almost £40m.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, political editor Paul Francis forced Kent County Council to publish an eight-page report outlining the ambitious Turner Project, which had attracted national publicity.

The centre, hailed as an iconic design, was to be built in the sea bed off Margate Pier until the project was abandoned in February.

Francis' initial request was blocked by the council, which said the release of "raw data" relevant to what went wrong could result in a "public debate that might also be aired in the media".

But an independent consultant's report, commissioned by the council, revealed the building was in danger of being swept away in the event of freak storms. An additional 1,200 tonnes of steel would have been needed to render the centre safe, doubling the original intended spend.

Francis said: "This was a project that Kent County Council spent at least £7m of taxpayers' money on, so it was evidently in the public interest that more was revealed about what went wrong."

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