“It may be that such an email may have been deleted..”

Whilst the Environment Minister ponders his decision to rescind Area of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) designation for Lisnaragh, the Belfast Telegraph’s David Gordon has discovered that, in response to an earlier FOI request, the Department for the Environment failed to disclose all relevant emails – including an exchange between Planning Service chief Cynthia Smith and the Permanent Secretary Stephen Peover in connection with “Ministerial letters to planning staff”.

The DoE was asked by this newspaper to explain why this email exchange had not been included in the FOI disclosure. In reply, a spokesman said a further check had been undertaken and Planning Service had been “unable to find the email”. He added: “It may be that such an email may have been deleted from the Department’s email system as part of routine IT housekeeping and this could explain why the document was not discovered when responding to your original FOI request.”