Report in relation to Jersey International Finance Centre (FOI)
Report in relation to Jersey International Finance Centre (FOI)Produced by the Freedom of Information office
Authored by States of Jersey and published on 25 November 2015.
Prepared internally, no external costs.
Please can you publish the DTZ report, for the JIFC, as referred to earlier this week by the Treasury Minister and include the instruction letter which commissioned the valuation, along with providing a confirmation of the reports cost.
It should be noted the Treasury Minister, in the press release as shown on the link below stated “It was important to commission an independent valuation to verify the projected outcome of this important project for Jersey. I hope the findings of this valuation will reassure islanders that the scheme remains financially viable in the light of recent contamination concerns.” and in the JEP that “I wouldn’t necessarily have published it, but it helpful because there’s been a lot of commentary around contamination issues, with some asking if that called into question the viability of the project as a whole….the report clearly demonstrates that as this stage the project is still very much viable”
International Finance Centre valuation
Clearly if the public are going to be reassured by its publication, as set out by the Minister, it needs to be in full and unredacted form so the figure of £ 42.8m for building 4 quoted can be fully understood. The project, over at least a 10 year period, cannot hold confidential information as the valuers will have had to make their own assumptions on what the market conditions may be in the future and which do not provide any commercial advantage to others as the assumptions are very subjective. The report quoted already has confirmed an aggregate value of £332 million for the completed office development, the cost of developing the offices, public car park and public areas estimated at £237 million and the profit on completion is estimated at £95 million.
A redacted version of the engagement letter is below and within this it provides the cost of the report which is £10,000.
Download DTZ report (size 271kb)
Paragraph 3 has been redacted article 33 Commercial Interest has been applied. The names of the parties involved in the report have also been redacted Article 25 Personal information (see detail below).
The publication of the report is being refused under the following Articles of the Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 (see below for full detail):
- Article 23 Information accessible to applicant by other means
- Article 33 Commercial interests
- Article 34 The Economy
- Article 35 Formulation and development of policy
FOI exemption(s) applied:
Freedom of Information (Jersey) Law 2011 Part 4 Absolute Exempt information
23 Information accessible to applicant by other means
(1) Information is absolutely exempt information if it is reasonably available to the applicant, otherwise than under this Law, whether or not free of charge.
(2) A scheduled public authority that refuses an application for information on this ground must make reasonable efforts to inform the applicant where the applicant may obtain the information.
25 Personal information
(1) Information is absolutely exempt information if it constitutes personal data of which the applicant is the data subject as defined in the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005.
(2) Information is absolutely exempt information if
(a) it constitutes personal data of which the applicant is not the data subject as defined in the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005; and
(b) its supply to a member of the public would contravene any of the data protection principles, as defined in that Law.
Part 5 Qualified Exempt information
33 Commercial interests
Information is qualified exempt information if
(a) it constitutes a trade secret; or
(b) its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of a person (including the scheduled public authority holding the information).
34 The Economy
Information is qualified exempt information if its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice
(a) the economic interests of Jersey; or
(b) the financial interests of the States of Jersey.
35 Formulation and development of policies
Information is qualified exempt information if it relates to the formulation or development of any proposed policy by a public authority.
Justification for exemption(s)
Article 23 Information accessible to the applicant by other means
The report holds detail which has been obtained from the Public Registry. The “Public Registry Index and Document Enrolment” (PRIDE) system can be accessed either at the Public Registry, in the basement of the States Building, or the Jersey Archive.
Planning and building
Detail within the report has utilised the following webpage.
Article 25 Personal information
The information cannot be disclosed because its disclosure to a member of the public would contravene one or more of the data protection principles, which are set out in article 1 of schedule 1 to the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005.
As a public authority, the States of Jersey must observe all of the data protection principles when processing personal data. The exemption from the duty to disclose personal data, where to do so would breach a data protection principle, is an absolute exemption, therefore the public interest test in Part 2 of the FOI Law does not apply.
Article 33 Commercial interests
The release of this document and paragraph three of the engagement letter will affect the commercial interests of the States of Jersey and SoJDC as a wholly owned company of the States.
SoJDC are working in a competitive market and their competitors are not compelled to provide the public with any disclosure of their plans or accounts. It must be expected that SoJDC is subject to a reasonable level of democratic and public scrutiny. However, because of the nature of the business it is engaged in it is considered reasonable to justify a degree of protection of full disclosure of all its projects.
In R v Hackney LBC  EWHC 3499 the court considered the disclosure of a viability appraisal. On request for its disclosure the court held “the [report] was confidential. The [report] contained assumptions about build costs, sales costs and residual values. They were clearly matters of the utmost commercial sensitivity. Any reasonable person apprised of the facts would consider that was a genuine basis for the [report] to remain out of the public domain. The scope of the duty of confidentiality could vary from one case to another but in the circumstances here, where the information was provided and received on the reasonable basis that it would be treated confidentially and concerned matters of commercial sensitivity it should be so treated.”
On this basis it is considered that the States and SoJDC cannot be expected to release all documents which it commissions.
As a qualified exemption it is necessary for the public authority to access if the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
There is a need for public authorities to have transparency, accountability, financial and good decision making, in order to facilitate understanding and public debate. However, in respect of this development, these aims are being met because the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel, which is a mechanism for challenges to be made in relation to the Government, Ministers and ultimately the departments which they work with, are currently considering the proposed development of the Esplanade Quarter. On balance therefore, it is considered that for the reasons listed above the information contained in the report is sensitive and its disclosure will be prejudicial to SoJDC and the States.
Article 34 The Economy
The Esplanade Quarter development is considered to be a significant project which will provide considerable funds for the States for the regeneration of St Helier. St Helier is Jersey’s capital. There is a need to reinvest in St. Helier in order that visitors to the Island have positive images and wish to return and recommend the Island to others. Profits from the development will be returned to the States for the regeneration of St Helier, benefiting the public of the Island. This has been documented and discussed in the States Assembly.
States Assembly website
The future income attributable to returning visitors is a speculative task and cannot be easily quantified, but it is considered that unless St. Helier is regenerated it is likely that visitor numbers (business or otherwise) will be harmed.
Without prejudice to the generality of the above, it is considered, in particular, that if this report is released into the public domain than there is a risk that this will increase the difficulty for SoJDC to secure tenants for the Esplanade Quarter. This will ultimately have an impact on the public funds available for the regeneration project.
Article 35 Formulation and development of policies
The report is prospective. The Esplanade Quarter project entered its first phase of development this year. Planning applications are still being made by SoJDC and not all approvals are in place.
Should approval not be forthcoming or any legal challenges to planning applications are successful, T&R in particular needs the ability to consider and reconsider the assumptions and evaluations raised by the report for the purposes of good government. It is therefore considered appropriate to maintain this exemption at this time to enable T&R to continue any necessary work needed in respect of this project from a policy perspective.
This is a qualified exemption, so there is a need for T&R to assess the public interest when making the decision as to whether the information should be released or not.
Various proposals and plans have been submitted for the Esplanade Quarter over the last seven to eight years and much of the documentation is in the public domain. The States Assembly have had various debates regarding the development and many States questions have been answered regarding the development.
Given the level of information that is available to the public on this matter it is not considered that the public interest would be better served by the premature release of an internal working report which will have commercial implications for the proposed development, the developers SoJDC, the States and the Island as a whole.
Taking all these factors into account the public authority is of the view that the report should not be disclosed at this time.