Dear Sir or Madam
Please can you provide me with the following information under the Freedom Of Information Act 2000:-
(a) addresses of vacant Commercial properties that have been empty for more than three months and are within Enfield Council area; and
(b) the names of the owners of those properties referred to in (a)
Dear Ms Scroggs
In reply to your freedom of information request below.
Please treat this email as a refusal notice in response to your Freedom of Information Act request. I am refusing under Section 31 at this time (but as the core data will not be provided I have not referred to Section 40 and Section 41).
We will not release information concerning vacant property or land.
Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act in this Authority’s view applies to this request. This section provides that information is exempt from disclosure if such disclosure would prejudice the “prevention or detection of crime”. Putting the addresses of empty properties (residential or otherwise) within the Borough into the public domain would in the Authority’s view compromise the security of the buildings concerned and would prejudice the objectives of preventing criminal behaviour. We consider there is a significant risk that releasing details of empty properties might lead to burglary, arson or squatting. Within the borough there have been occasions recently when fires have been set in empty properties. In relation to domestic and commercial empty properties, there is also known use of such empty properties to commit benefit fraud, identity fraud and money laundering.
We have consulted with other Boroughs who have also received similar requests, we have been advised that concerns have also been expressed by the Metropolitan Police. These concerns indicate that release of the information sought would in the police’s view increase the potential for the properties to be targeted by squatters, by criminals or terrorists intent on hiding or depositing proceeds of crime or terrorist materials. There is also the potential for premises to be identified as short-term hiding places by criminals or terrorists. We have consulted our local police and they have confirmed the number of incidents of crimes carried out on empty properties, and their view is that disclosing this information would prejudice the prevention of crime.
These incidents would support the concerns the Authority has as to the prejudice to the prevention of crime in the borough if the information were disclosed. The Act does not allow the Council to enquire as to motives, nor do we have any control over distribution of the information once it is released into the public domain. Making it available to you effectively makes it available to all.
Section 31 is a qualified exemption to which the public interest test must be applied. There do not appear to be any obvious public interest considerations that would weigh in favour of disclosure beyond that wherever possible it is in the public interest for them to have access to information. There is however in our view clear public interest considerations that weigh in favour of not disclosing the information since to do so would prejudice the objective of prevention of crime which is of course in everyone’s interests. Having considered whether the public interest weighs in favour of disclosure or non-disclosure in this instance the Authority has decided that it is not in the public interest to release such information. I would add to this that our approach has been borne out by the Judgement of Judge Jacobs in relation to the appeal to the upper Tribunal on the Camden case concerning Squatters.
However it is true that most of the information you seek is already in the public domain. The Council has a portfolio of empty property some is available for let and our agents Spencer Craig handle the Councils commercial lets. You can contact these agents for a list of empty property. These properties will have been professionally secured and are monitored. To simply give a list of all empty property would be highly irresponsible and not in the interest of the Council Tax Payers.
There are also other Estate agents in the Borough dealing in commercial property such as Bowyer Bryce.
If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, you should email: [email address]
If you are not content with the outcome your complaint, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by the Authority. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF. Or Email: [email address]
Ndr & Inspection Manager
Revenues and Benefits
Tel: + 44 (0)20 8379 4766
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