The complainant made a multipart request for information relating to the cost of repairing damage to the road network, typically caused by road traffic accidents. The complainant pursued complaints in respects of request 1, 2 and 5. In respect of request 1 Highways England Company Ltd (HE) provided the complainant with links to where the requested information could be found. However during the course of the investigation HE identified further relevant information. It explained that the complainant had previously been provided with that information and that therefore it would be exempt under section 21, which the Commissioner accepts. In respect of request 2, HE originally refused the request under section 43 on the basis that it was commercially sensitive. However this was based on a misinterpretation of the request. Once the scope of the request had been clarified during the Commissioner’s investigation, it was established that the requested information was not held. In respect of request 5, HE originally advised the complainant that the information was not held. Although this too was based on a misinterpretation of the request, once its scope was clarified, it was established that the information was not held. The Commissioner’s decision is that in respect of request 1, by failing to inform the complainant of its application of section 21 – information accessible to the applicant by other means, HE failed to comply with its obligation under section 17 to issue a valid refusal notice. In respect of request 2, the Commissioner finds that HE breached section 1 by failing to inform the complainant that the information was not held. The Commissioner finds that technically HE complied with its obligations in respect of request 5. The Commissioner has also found that by failing to provide its overall response to the requests within twenty working days HE breached section 10. Given that this decision notice informs the complainant of the developments in this case, the Commissioner does not require the public authority to take any further action in this matter.
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