Residential and Commercial Property

Mae'r ymateb i'r cais hwn yn hwyr iawn. Yn ôl y gyfraith, ym mhob amgylchiad, dylai Sunderland City Council fod wedi ymateb erbyn hyn. (manylion). Gallwch gwyno drwy yn gofyn am adolygiad mewnol.

Dear Sunderland City Council,

Please can you provide me with the existing council owned buildings both commercial and residential that are currently vacant?

Yours faithfully,
Chris Finney
07825 535856

Solicitor - Freedom of Information, Sunderland City Council

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Finney,

 

Re: Your request for information concerning:

 

Vacant properties

 

The Council aims to provide available information promptly and in any
event within 20 working days, unless, exceptionally, there is a need to
consider whether the information is exempt from disclosure.

 

We will contact you again soon in connection with your request.

 

Please quote the reference below if you contact the Council regarding this
request.

 

Customer Request Number:  17 11 65

 

[1]cid:image002.png@01D1081E.ECC35380

 

 

 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

OCEFOI, Sunderland City Council

Dear Chris Finney,

 

I refer to your recent request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.  I can confirm that the Council does hold this
information, as detailed below.

 

Please can you provide me with the existing council owned buildings both
commercial and residential that are currently vacant?

The Council currently owns 34 properties that are vacant. We can confirm
the council does hold the addresses of these properties, however this
information is being withheld under the 2000 Act. The exemptions which
apply to this information are: Section 31 (1)(a) Law Enforcement, Section
38(1)(b) Health and Safety and Section 43(2) Commercial Interests.

Section 31 (1) (a) creates an exemption from the right to know if
releasing the information would or would be likely to prejudice the
prevention or detection of crime. It is the council's view that disclosing
the list of empty properties would or would be likely to prejudice the
prevention of crime in that releasing the addresses of unoccupied 
properties would make it easier to identify those properties and therefore
increase the likelihood of acts such as criminal damage, theft of fixtures
and fittings, arson, break-ins, drug misuse, prostitution, vandalism as
well as anti-social behaviour related to empty properties which have been
squatted, being committed at the same. In the circumstances it is the
council’s opinion that the exemption is engaged.

The exemption available under section 31 (1) (a) is one of the exemptions
which is subject to the public interest test.  Therefore even when, as
here, the council considers the exemption is engaged it must then go on to
consider whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption
outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.

In carrying out this balancing test the council have considered factors
which both favour disclosure of the information and factors in favour of
maintaining the exemption.

Factors in favour of disclosure of the information you have requested
include:

* The possibility that this would lead to a reduction in the number of
empty properties;
* Raising the profile of the issue in order to encourage public debate;
and
* Providing local residents with the opportunity to challenge the council
on its policies and activities relating to the issue.

Factors in favour of maintaining the exemption include:

* The strong public interest in avoiding likely prejudice to the
prevention of crime.

* Would not be in the best interests of law enforcement;
* The public interest in avoiding damage to property;
* The efficient use of police resources;
* The potential for indirect consequences of crime, for example the impact
on neighbouring properties of crimes perpetrated on the empty properties;
and
* The impact of crime on individuals, the council and corporate bodies.

Having considered the above, the council is of the view that the factors
in favour of maintaining the exemption outweigh the factors in favour of
disclosure and therefore the balance of the public interest test is
greater in maintaining the exemption available under section 31(1) (a) of
the 2000 Act. 

Section 38 (1) (b) of the 2000 Act provides an exemption from disclosing
information if such disclosure would, or would be likely to, endanger the
safety of any individual. As outlined above it is the council’s opinion
that to release the addresses of unoccupied properties would make it
easier to identify those properties and therefore increase the
likelihood of criminal offences being committed at the same. The council
therefore asserts that the disclosure of the information would or would be
likely to endanger

a) the safety of council officers and police officers should they have to
deal with any such criminal acts and

b) the owners of neighbouring properties and local residents through a
possible increase in crimes at these properties. The council's opinion is
that the exemption is therefore engaged. 

The exemption available under section 38 (1) (b) is again one of the
exemptions which is subject to the public interest test. As with the
section 31 (1) (a) exemption, the council has gone on to determine whether
the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public
interest in disclosing the information. In short the council
has considered if the harm that would be likely to be caused to any
individual by the disclosure would be greater than the public interest
in its disclosure.

The 2000 Act does not list the factors that would favour disclosure,
however the Information Commissioners Office has suggested that among the
factors that would weigh in favour of disclosure are:

* Furthering the understanding and participation in the public debate of
the issues of the day;
* Promoting accountability and transparency by public authorities for
decisions taken by them;
* Promoting accountability and transparency in the spending of public
money;
* Allowing individuals, companies and other bodies to understand decisions
made by public authorities affecting their lives; and
* Bringing to light information affecting public health and safety.

The council has considered each of those factors but in this instance does
not believe any of them would be greater than the harm that would be
likely to be caused to any individual by disclosure of the information in
question. The council is therefore of the view that the balance of
the public interest test is greater in maintaining the exemption available
under section 38(1) (b) of the 2000 Act. 

Section 43 (2) of the 2000 Act provides an exemption if disclosure of the
information would or would be likely to prejudice the commercial interests
of any person (including the public authority holding it). Release of the
addresses of  unoccupied properties would make it easier to identify those
properties and therefore increase the likelihood of squatting and crimes
associated with squatting. Where this occurred there would be a
consequential delay in letting of the properties, pending eviction and
there would be a loss of income to the council coupled with the cost of
eviction and clearing of the property in each case. In the circumstances
the council's opinion is that the exemption available under section 43 (2)
is engaged. 

The section 43(2) exemption is another of the exemptions available in the
2000 Act which is subject to the public interest test. Factors in favour
of disclosing the information include:

* The possibility that this would lead to a reduction in the number of
empty commercial and residential properties;
* Raising the profile of the issue in order to encourage public debate;
and
* Providing local residents with the opportunity to challenge the council
on its policies and activities relating to the issue.

However factors in favour of maintaining the exemption include:-

* A detrimental impact on the rental income and/or commercial revenue of
the council where there was a delay in letting or selling unoccupied
premises which had been squatted;
* An increase in costs to the council as a result of the need to take
eviction proceedings as well as clear and/or repair properties which had
been squatted.

The council accepts that releasing the information may achieve the factors
identified above which favour disclosure of the same. However the council
has balanced this against the factors which favour maintaining the
exemption. The council is of the view that the detrimental impact on its
income and commercial revenue as well as the  increased costs arising out
of the need to recover and repair properties impact on its budget and in
turn the amount of money which is available to provide services to the
residents of Sunderland. In the circumstances the council has concluded
that the public interest in favour of maintaining the exemption outweighs
the public interest in disclosing the same.

 

I hope this is satisfactory.  If, however, you are dissatisfied with our
response to your request for information, you can ask for the decision to
be reviewed in reply to this letter.  The review will be removed from the
Directorate and coordinated by the Council’s Information Governance
Officer.   A request for review should be directed, by email to
[1][Sunderland City Council request email], by post or by hand addressed to;
Information Governance Officer, Governance Services, Civic Centre, PO Box
100, Sunderland SR2 7DN.

 

You are of course entitled to apply to the Information Commissioner at any
time, although the Commissioner will not usually investigate until the
public authority’s internal review procedure has been concluded.

 

Kind Regards

 

 

Steve Hanratty

Business Development Manager

Economy and Place Directorate

Sunderland City Council

Tel 0191 5617808

[2]www.sunderland.gov.uk

 

 

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir