Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Post-Redaction Stress Syndrome: Southwark, Lend Lease, Heygate, Elephant and Castle

Redaction used to be blindingly simple in the good old days.
   A government official would simply and thickly block out sensitive words with a black marker pen. Then bury the printed paper in a file and hide the file in an archive; all done with the emotional intensity of a cricket umpire.
   Even if citizens or journalists discovered the document, the blocked out passages would merely raise questions but provide no answers. The secretive could sleep easily.
   But redaction in the digital age doesn't seem so simple in south London. I received an email containing a link to an apparently "badly redacted" commercially confidential document published by Southwark Council on its website. The document seems to be the controversial regeneration agreement between Southwark and global developer Lend Lease.
   According to local residents campaigning against Southwark and Lend Lease's planned regeneration of Elephant and Castle, the full contents of the redacted document were simply revealed by copying and pasting the text of the published PDF document into a Word file. Oops!

Staggeringly cheap
Residents say the 'inadvertently' revealed redactions show Southwark sold Lend Lease 22 acres of publicly owned land - the Heygate Estate - just a couple of miles from central London for an embarrassingly and staggeringly cheap £50 million. 
   Lend Lease so far are saying nothing. And Southwark Council leader Peter John (Labour) denies any embarrassment and says the deal will deliver new homes, shops, jobs and parkland.
  But the offending document has now been completely removed from the Council website. 
And, I am left to wonder if  - inside Southwark fancy Tooley Street HQ - an ass today is being kicked for incompetence or mischief.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, February 2013


No comments: