Council apologises after nearly 190,000 planning files temporarily withdrawn from inspection after threat to Data Protection Act

East Cambs Council apology on their website over access to planning documents

East Cambs Council apology on their website over access to planning documents - Credit: Archant

Nearly 190,000 planning files held by East Cambs Council were exposed to possible breaches of the Data Protection Act following ‘teething’ issues experienced during the introduction of an updated electronic register.

Urgent action by council officials resulted in the documents being temporarily pulled resulting in thousands of website users being unable to access planning application information.

Andy Radford, director of resources, told councillors there are 187,000 documents affected but these are now being redacted and should be uploaded back onto the planning website this weekend.

He said: “I would like to apologise to customers, members and staff for the problems.”

Mr Radford explained that as part of a ‘transformation programme’, an electronic management system for both scanning and retrieving all documents held by the council was agreed.

The new, all singing all dancing IDOX system went ‘live’ in early December but Mr Radford admits there was “one, fundamental issue which had not been identified as a risk”.

Previously complete documents were scanned and personal information redacted in according with The Data Protection Action. Names and addresses, for example, were redacted before being uploaded to the website.

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However, says Mr Radford, and “regretfully” the original documents were uploaded prior to their redaction.

He said: “So although we are able to publish all documents, we have not published documents until the redaction issue is resolved. To do so without redaction would leave the council open to action by the Information Commissioner’s Office for breaches of the Data Protection Act.”

Mr Radford said there lessons had been learnt and in the meantime officers have helped customers where possible by sharing redacted documents.

He is expecting the issue to be resolved this weekend when all redacted documents are being uploaded onto the council website.