This is an HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request 'Vacant Commercial Properties in Westminster'.


 
M Doyle
Commercial and Financial Management 
What do they know
Westminster City Council 
64 Victoria Street 
London 
SW1E 6QP
Telephone 0207 641 3921
Email xxx@xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx.xx 
 
 
 
 
Our ref: 10496368
Your ref: 
Date: 24 July 2019
 
 
Dear M Doyle
 
Freedom of Information Act 2000
 
Thank you for your recent Freedom of Information request. You asked to be provided 
with the following information:
 
Dear Westminster City Council, 
Under the FOIA would you kindly supply the following information relating to vacant 
commercial properties in the borough It is understood that section 31 could 
potentially be applied however, by redacting the name of building and or first line 
address should alleviate the necessity. In essence supply the postcode, building 
type/category, ratable value, rates payable, outstanding rates, period empty, owner, 
etc Only information which constitutes a breach of the GDPR/DPA should be 
redacted but not all information. 
If you require any clarification, please revert 
Yours faithfully, 
M Doyle
 
 
Response
 
In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 this letter acts as a Refusal 
Notice, as the Council has determined that you should not be provided with the 
information that you have requested, namely the list of all vacant commercial 
properties in the borough.
This decision has been made under Section 31 of the Data Protection Act (the 
prevention or detection of crime).  
The Council holds detailed financial information relating to the NNDR account 
holders and by confirming the above data items the Council is opening itself up to 
fraudulent activity. When dealing with enquiries about a particular account, the 
Council has only limited ways of ensuring that the person who contacts the Council 
is actually authorised to discuss and deal with the account. In most cases the 
enquirer can be asked to confirm the account reference number, however where that 

is not available other information can be checked, such as the name of the account 
holder the period of liability and the occupation status of the property.
By providing information such as the name of the occupier and the period of 
occupation to the “world at large” the Council’s ability to protect any confidential 
information, such as bank account details or other financial information would be 
significantly decreased. The Council would also be significantly increasing the risk of 
fraudulent activity, including fraudulent applications for NNDR refunds (Information 
Commissioner’s decision FS50611895). The cost of fraud perpetrated against the 
Council will fall as a cost to the Council and ultimately a cost to all of our residents. It 
is therefore the Council’s view that Section 31 of the Freedom of Information Act 
applies to this request.
In relation to putting the addresses of empty properties (whether owned corporately 
or by individuals) into the public domain, it is in the Council’s view that such actions 
would compromise the security of the buildings concerned and would prejudice the 
objectives of preventing criminal behaviour. We consider there is significant risk that 
releasing details of empty properties might lead to burglary, arson, vandalism and 
other criminal activity.
We have also previously consulted with the Metropolitan Police and they have 
confirmed that the release of this type of information, would, in the police’s view, 
increase the potential for the properties to be targeted by squatters, criminals or 
terrorists and therefore increase the risk of theft, vandalism and terrorism.
It should be noted that the Freedom of Information Act does not allow the Council to 
enquire as to the FOI requestor’s motives, nor do we have any control over 
distribution of the information once it is “released” into the public domain.
Section 31 is a qualified exemption to which the public interest test must be applied. 
There are clear public interest considerations that weigh in favour of not disclosing 
the information, as to do so would prejudice the objective of prevention of crime and 
may increase the burden on the public purse. It is considered that these factors 
significantly outweigh the benefits of disclosure.
I apologise that your request will not be met, however if you have any further 
information needs in the future please do not hesitate to contact the City Council.
You have the right of appeal against the Council’s decision. If you wish to appeal, 
please set out in writing your grounds of appeal and send to:
 
Information Management Team 
64 Victoria Street 
London 
SW1E 6QP 
xxx@xxxxxxxxxxx.xxx.xx 
 
Should you still be dissatisfied with the outcome of any such complaint you have the 
right to make a complaint to the Information Commissioner, pursuant to section 50 of 
the Freedom of Information Act. The contact details are:
 
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow


Cheshire
SK9 5AF
 
Tel: 0303 123 1113 or 01625 54 57 45
Fax: 01625 524510
Web: www.ico.org.uk
 
 
 
I will now close your request as of this date.
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
Westminster City Council