Complete Non-Residential / Business Property Rates Data

Gavin Chait made this Freedom of Information request to Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea as part of a batch sent to 26 authorities

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Dear Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea,

In terms of the Freedom of Information Act of 2000, could you please provide me with a complete and up-to-date list of all business (non-residential) property rates data for your local authority, and including the following fields:

- Billing Authority Code
- Firm's Trading Name (i.e. property occupant)
- Full Property Address (Number, Street, Postal Code, Town)
- Occupied / Vacant
- Date of Occupation / Vacancy
- Actual annual rates charged (in Pounds)

While such data series are often published by local authorities, I have undertaken a thorough search of your website and have not found these. If they are available, as requested, then please - in terms of Section 21 of the act - could you provide a link to the page where the data are published, as well as guidance on the update frequency.

I appreciate that properties owned / rented by individuals are personal information and such personal data (i.e. the Firm's Trading Name) would be excluded from my request in terms of Section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. In such cases, please provide the remaining information with the Firm's Trading Name either blank or listed as 'individual'.

Please provide this as machine-readable as either a CSV or Microsoft Excel file, capable of re-use, and under terms of the Open Government Licence.

I am compiling a comprehensive time-series database of business activity across the UK and will require the dataset updated on a quarterly basis. Some 20% of local authorities already provide this dataset (and a total of 30% of local authorities provide a subset of these data) on a monthly to quarterly basis on a dedicated page on their websites or on an open data service. I would appreciate it if you could do the same.

Yours faithfully,

Gavin Chait

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Dear Mr Chait

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT REQUEST REF: 2016-0312

I am writing to confirm that we received your information request on 14 March 2016. For your information and future communications your request has been allocated the reference number FOI2016-03012. Please quote this reference in any future correspondence.

We will consider your request and respond in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Our duty is to respond promptly or at least within 20 working days.

Regards

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Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

1 Attachment

Dear Mr. Chait

 

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST REF: 2016-0312

 

I am responding to your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000,
which we received on 14 March 2016, for information held by the Council.
You requested:

 

In terms of the Freedom of Information Act of 2000, could you please
provide me with a complete and up-to-date list of all business
(non-residential) property rates data for your local

authority, and including the following fields:

     

- Billing Authority Code

- Firm's Trading Name (i.e. property occupant)

- Full Property Address (Number, Street, Postal Code, Town)

- Occupied / Vacant

- Date of Occupation / Vacancy

- Actual annual rates charged (in Pounds)

 

I confirm that we hold the information requested, please see attached.

 

Please note that we do not release the addresses of empty properties for
the reasons below.

 

The First Tier Tribunal ruled in Voyias v Information Commissioner and LB
Camden (Case No. EA/2011/0007) that the public interest lies in
withholding the addresses of empty properties:

 

[1]http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DB...

 

The Information Commissioners Office has decided that this applies to the
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea:

 

[2]https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...

 

Under section 31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act, we are permitted
to withhold information if disclosure would, or would be likely to
prejudice the prevention and detection of crime. We believe that the
disclosure of addresses of empty properties in the borough would likely
lead to squatting and other criminal activity in and/or around these
properties.

 

If a list of empty properties were to be disclosed then these properties
would become more vulnerable to potential squatters and other criminal
acts such as theft and vandalism.

 

Section 31 is a qualified exemption so the Act requires us to consider
whether the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in
maintaining the exemption. We recognise that there is a significant public
interest in the disclosure of Council information in the interest of
transparency and accountability. Certainly the Council are accountable for
empty properties in the Borough and we understand that information may be
requested to help bring these properties back into use, which would be in
the financial and commercial interest of the public.

 

However, we believe that there is a strong argument in avoiding the likely
prejudice to the prevention of crime. It is in the public interest to
protect property and to avoid the considerable public expense that would
be incurred dealing with crime associated with empty properties.
Furthermore, we feel that public interest lies in preventing the distress
that is caused to victims of crime. Residents who live in close proximity
will also be affected by crime committed in the area and they will have a
reasonable expectation of feeling secure in their homes.

 

Although there is a strong public interest in bringing empty properties
back into use, our immediate concern is the protection of property and the
well being of residents. Therefore we have decided that the public
interest in avoiding prejudice to the prevention of crime outweighs the
public interest in disclosure.

 

Complaints

 

I trust this has satisfied your request. Should you be unhappy with the
handling of your request, the Council has an internal complaints process
for handling FOIA complaints. Complaints are reviewed by the Chief
Solicitor and Monitoring Officer or her nominee. A form is available from
our website to lodge your complaint
[3]http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/councilanddemocra...
Please contact us if you do not have website access and we can provide you
with a copy of the form. Following this review, should you still be
unhappy with how your information request has been handled, you have a
further right to appeal to the Information Commissioner who is responsible
for ensuring compliance with FOIA.  

 

Yours sincerely

 

Robin Yu

Information Protection Assistant

Shared ICT Service

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

The Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8 7NX

Tel: 020 7938 8226

 

Email: [4][email address] | Website: [5]http://www.rbkc.gov.uk  

[6]http://t.sidekickopen42.com/e1t/o/5/f18d...

Leighton House Museum

The Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian drawings from the Lanigan Collection on show until Sunday 29 May 2016

Http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/laniganexhibition

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References

Visible links
1. http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DB...
2. https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-tak...
3. http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/councilanddemocra...
4. mailto:[email address]
5. http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/

Dear Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea's handling of my FOI request 'Complete Non-Residential / Business Property Rates Data'.

On 14 March 2016, I sent an FOI request for a complete and up-to-date list of all business (non-residential) property rates data, and including the following fields:

- Billing Authority Code
- Firm's Trading Name (i.e. property occupant)
- Full Property Address (Number, Street, Postal Code, Town)
- Occupied / Vacant
- Date of Occupation / Vacancy
- Actual annual rates charged (in Pounds)

My request has been refused in terms of Section 31(1)(a). According to the Information Commissioners Office, "Section 31 is a prejudice based exemption and is subject to the public interest test. This means that not only does the information have to prejudice one of the purposes listed, but, before the information can be withheld, the public interest in preventing that prejudice must outweigh the public interest in disclosure."

Section 31(1)(a) deals specifically with "the prevention or detection of crime".

A property being empty may well lead to it being more likely to suffer potential criminal activity, but it does not automatically follow that publishing a list of empty properties in any way changes that potential.

Empty premises will be known to residents of the community in which they are based, or they are advertised as part of a lettings offer. In other words, these are properties of which many people will be clearly aware are empty whether the local authority data are publicly available or not.

In addition, I have run - in parallel with this request - a series of FOI requests to a sample of local authorities and to all police services across England and Wales requesting total number of incidents of criminal activity in empty commercial properties. Such data would permit easy comparison between areas that regularly disclose and those which choose not to in order to assess whether there is a greater risk as a result of disclosure.

To date, no local authorities or police services have produced such data and it appears that no such data are collected. The only data (very sparsely collected) by local authorities about incidents of crime in council-owned commercial premises indicates that no such crime is recorded, even in local authorities where details of empty properties are regularly published.

It is very difficult to substantiate a Section 31 refusal if you have no data to validate your concern. If police do not collect such data, any opinion they may offer is not based on any objective quantitative analysis. Of the 350 local authorities in England and Wales, more than 58% of these either already make empty property data available, or have done so in response to FOI requests from ourselves.

In other words, there is no substantive basis for concern that publishing a list of empty properties will lead to prejudice under Section 31.

In terms of Public Interest, the purpose of our use of the data requested is in informing entrepreneurs and business seekers about opportunities in empty premises when they are advertised for new tenants. We combine local authority premises occupation data with other data (from the Valuations Office and ONS) to develop forward guidance on business potential in each empty business property. Further details on our activities are available at http://pikhaya.com, but our activity is supported by the Open Data Institute and we have received funding from the EU Open Data Incubator to develop this service.

Our combined data are made available via online commercial property leasing intermediaries as a free service to business seekers. These leasing intermediaries combine our data with properties being offered for rent.

We are mindful, though, that not all authorities wish to release direct information on empty premises. In that case, could we suggest that you provide only a list of occupied properties which we would then reconcile against the master list of properties from the Valuations Office Agency (VOA). VOA data are available via their website, and the complete database by subscription. Empty premises will be known to residents of the community in which they are based. That means that anyone not resident in your community and wanting to find the list of empty properties would have to undertake the costs and technicalities of a similar data reconciliation.

I would ask that you consider that the public interest in economic development and improving opportunities for independent businesses and entrepreneurs far outweighs any concern that the release of data which can identify empty business properties may cause crime.

Unemployment and economic deprivation are often key to reducing the potential for crime. Our intention is to support local economic development initiatives through the use of these data.

I ask that you reconsider your decision and make this data available to us under terms which permit our use thereof.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

Yours faithfully,

Gavin Chait

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Dear Mr. Chait

I acknowledge receipt of your request for internal review received on 13
April 2016, which will be forwarded to the Chief Solicitor and Monitoring
Officer to conduct.  

 

There is no statutory deadline for internal reviews but we aim to respond
within 20 working days as recommended by the Information Commissioner’s
Office. Therefore we will aim to respond by 12 May 2016.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Robin Yu

Information Protection Assistant

Shared ICT Service

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

The Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8 7NX

Tel: 020 7938 8226

 

Email: [1][email address] | Website: [2]http://www.rbkc.gov.uk

 

 

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Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Dear Mr. Chait,

 

I note that you write:

 

“We are mindful, though, that not all authorities wish to release direct
information on empty premises. In that case, could we suggest that you
provide only a list of occupied properties which we would then reconcile
against the master list of properties from the Valuations Office Agency
(VOA).”

 

We provided you with this list of properties in our original response.
With this in mind, do you still want us to conduct an internal review?

 

Please let me know how you wish to proceed. Your request for internal
review is on hold until you respond.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Robin Yu

Information Protection Assistant

Shared ICT Service

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

The Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8 7NX

Tel: 020 7938 8226

 

Email: [email address] | Website: [1]http://www.rbkc.gov.uk

 

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Dear Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea,

My understanding is that the data provided is a complete list of all properties, including both occupied and vacant, but with no field which identifies their occupation status. If you are able to provide only a list of occupied properties, then that would be sufficient.

However, if not, then please do continue with the internal review.

And, if I may add in consideration of the review, today I received data from Thames Valley Police on the incidents of crime in empty properties across the Thames Valley.

The Thames Valley response is here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a... Please verify for yourself.

The data are unequivocal. There is almost no empty property crime at all, and there is no difference between local authorities who do publish, and those who do not publish data on empty properties.

For example, in 2015 Oxford had 4,038 commercial properties and suffered 2 cases of empty commercial property crime at a cost of £1,259. In comparison, they had 3,133 cases of crime committed in occupied business premises, at a cost of £507,956.

By comparison, Reading, with 5,659 commercial properties and suffered 2 empty commercial property crimes that caused no damage at all.

Oxford refuses to publish under Section 31 while Reading publishes regularly. In total, across the Thames Valley, for 74,027 properties - of which about 7,000 are empty - only 11 crimes related to empty properties were recorded.

It is very difficult to substantiate a Section 31 refusal if you have no data to validate your concern. There is no substantive basis for concern that publishing a list of empty properties will lead to prejudice under Section 31.

Yours faithfully,

Gavin Chait

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Dear Mr. Chait,

 

Sorry my misunderstanding, yes you are correct we did provide a complete
list of properties. We will continue with the review.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Robin Yu

Information Protection Assistant

Shared ICT Service

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

The Town Hall, Hornton Street, London W8 7NX

Tel: 020 7938 8226

 

Email: [email address] | Website: [1]http://www.rbkc.gov.uk

 

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Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Dear Mr Chait

 

Thank you for your request for an internal review following the Council’s
response of 13 April to your request of 14 March.

 

I have considered very carefully the points you make in your email of 13
April about the economic benefits which could result from the release of
data on empty commercial properties. I have taken advice from the
Council’s Economic Development Team and they endorse what you say about
the benefits which could arise from releasing the data. I have also taken
advice from the Council’s Chief Community Safety Officer who, in turn, has
liaised with the local police. The police advice is that the data should
not be released because their view is that it would make empty property
more vulnerable to criminal activity.

 

I have considered whether, as you suggest, the Council could provide a
list of occupied properties. The Council has already provided you with is
a list of all properties i.e. those occupied and empty so a simple
comparison of the lists would identify those which are empty.

 

I note the service that your organisation provides and the support that it
has but the disclosure of the information would be to the public at large
and, in my view, the public interest in this case is best served by
maintaining the exemption.

 

This concludes my review.  If you are not satisfied with my response you
have the right to appeal to the Information Commissioner at:

 

The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane,
Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF

 

Telephone 0303123 1113

Website: [1]https://ico.org.uk/

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

LeVerne Parker

Chief Solicitor (Property and Planning)

Tri-Borough Shared Legal Services

Email: [email address]

 

Address:

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

The Town Hall (3^rd floor)

Hornton Street

London W8 7NX

Tel: 020 7361 2180

DX: 84015 Kensington High Street 2

 

                   

 

Leighton House Museum

The Pre-Raphaelites on Paper: Victorian drawings from the Lanigan Collection on show until Sunday 29 May 2016

Http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/laniganexhibition

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References

Visible links
1. https://ico.org.uk/

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