Empty Commercial Properties with RV in excess of £45,000

The request was refused by Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council.

Natalie Davis

Dear Trafford Borough Council,
Please can you provide me with the following information under the Freedom Of Information Act 2000:-

(a) hereditament addresses and rateable value of empty Commercial properties with a current rateable value in excess of £45,000 that are within Trafford Borough Council area;

and

(b) the names and addresses of the ratepayers of those properties referred to in (a)

Yours faithfully,

Natalie Davis

Dear Trafford Borough Council,

I note we are yet to have a response to our enquiry under the Freedom of Information Act sent on 26/05/11.

Yours faithfully,

Natalie Davis

Data Protection, Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council

Dear Ms Davis

I refer to your request below. I can give you the following information.

The Council is unable to provide you with the requested information for the following reasons.

The Council holds a list of empty properties. However the list does not include details of the owner of the property, as requested. The list records who is liable/enjoys an exemption or discount on National Non Domestic Rates (NNDR) for vacant properties. Any discounts or exemptions from NNDR associated with empty properties apply to the current occupier or tenant/ leaseholder of the property. The Council cannot tell from the list whether the NNDR payer/discounted or exempt business is necessarily the owner of the property.

In order to be able to provide you with the requested information the council would need to determine ownership of the listed empty properties with rateable values of over £45,000. This information would need to be derived from other records held by the council, for example previous correspondence.

Under section 12(1) of the FOIA, public authorities are not obliged to comply with requests for information if they estimate that the cost of complying with the request would exceed the `appropriate limit'. The Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004 set an `appropriate limit' of £450 for public authorities, which equates to 18 hours work at a statutory rate of £25 per hour.

The Council estimates this exercise would take the council in excess of 18 hours to locate and extract all the requested information. Therefore in accordance with section 12(1), we shall not be undertaking to comply with your request.

In addition the council would add the following regarding empty properties owned by sole traders. Information about sole traders, for example concerning their tax liabilities, amounts to personal data under the Data Protection Act. The Information Commissioner decided in case FS50072180 (Mid Devon District Council) that the vacancy status of a sole trader's commercial property, when coupled with other information in the public domain, indicates the extent of the sole trader's financial liability to NNDR and, therefore, constitutes third party personal data. Further, the Commissioner concluded that disclosure of that personal data would be unfair processing in breach of the first Data Protection principle.

Therefore, any of the requested information relating to sole traders (and, therefore, amounting to their personal data ) would, in any event, be exempt information under Sections 40(2) and 40(3)(a)(i) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This is because the disclosure of this information to the public would be contrary to their expectations and unfair with reference to the first Data Protection principle.

The Council has considered whether in fact it can simply provide you with a list of all of the empty properties without details of owners, thereby removing the need to consider the personal data issue of sole trader owners. The difficulty is that the Council cannot provide you with a list of empty properties as we do not know which addresses in the list relate to sole traders without first conducting the above exercise within the costs limit.

In conclusion therefore:

* The Council does not hold a list detailing ownership of properties or the vacancy status.

* The Council could search its other records to provide you with details of non-sole trader owners and addresses of empty properties, but not within the costs limit.

* In any event, the Council would not provide you with ownership nor address details of empty properties where that information amounts to personal data, such as sole trader owners. Such information, in conjunction with other data in the public domain would amount to those sole traders' personal data. Disclosure of the personal data would breach the first Data Protection principle. As such, the information would be exempt under Section 40(2)(b) & 40 (3(a)(i) of the Act.

The Council can therefore neither comply with your request within the costs limit and would, in any event, withhold any information amounting to personal data falling within your request.

The council considers it has fulfilled your Freedom of Information request. However, if you wish to appeal this decision, please contact me in the first instance, setting out any factors you feel should be taken into account. If you are still dissatisfied following any internal appeal, you may wish to contact the Information Commissioner's Office, whose contact details will be given on request.

Please let me know if you require any further information.

Yours sincerely

Nick Evans
Corporate Information Officer
Trafford Council

Office address:
Legal Services
6th Floor
Quay West
Trafford Wharf Road
Trafford Park
M17 1PL

Office phone number: 0161 912 1324
Office fax number: 0161 912 4294

Trafford Council is a well-performing, low-cost council working with Trafford Partnership to make Trafford a great place to live, learn, work and relax.
You can find out more about us by visiting www.trafford.gov.uk



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