Empty derelict properties

The request was refused by Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council.

Dear Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council,

RE: Freedom Of Information Act 2000 – Information Request – Unused / Derelict Properties

I am writing to request information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. To help guide you with the information retrieval, I have focused my request in the below categories.

As part of the decisions made by multiple councils to release its list of all “long-term” empty domestic and commercial properties, such as Lambeth and Bexley, and the decision by Judge Fiona Henderson to order Camden Council to make public its list of empty housing, could you please send me a copy of the:

(a) addresses of all empty or unused privately owned homes, which have been empty for more than 12 Months, that are within the Walsall.
(b) addresses of all empty or unused council owned commercial properties, which have been empty for more than 12 Months that are within Walsall.
(c) addresses of all empty or unused private commercial properties, which have been empty for more than 12 Months that are within Walsall.

In considering this request, I hope you will take into account
Judge Henderson's statement on releasing the empty housing and derelict commercial buildings list.

As this information aids the regeneration of unused and frequently dangerous housing, the release of such information is aligned with section 85 of the Local Government Act 2003, the Empty Housing Briefing Papers (May 2016) and Housing Act 2004.

I would like to receive the information in electronic format via email.

Yours faithfully,

Mark Brown

Yours faithfully,

Mark Brown

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Brown


Freedom of Information Request– Empty Properties RFI-2726-21


Further to your request for information about relating to Empty Derelict
Properties, I can tell you the following:


The Council has now reviewed your request and although it does hold the
information, after due consideration of this and of guidance provided by
the Information Commissioner it has concluded that the information
relating to empty properties is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom
of Information Act 2000 Section 31:Prejudicial to law enforcement


It is important to emphasise here, that whilst your own motives for
requesting this information are certainly not in question, any information
given under the Freedom of Information Act is a response into the public
domain and not merely to you, the applicant.  It is this perspective that
must therefore be taken into account.


Section 31(1) (a) - Law Enforcement

The Council seeks to withhold the addresses of the empty properties
falling within the scope of this request on the basis of section 31(1)
(a).  This section states that information is exempt if its disclosure
would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention or detection of


The Council does acknowledge that other local authorities may have
disclosed empty property information under similar Freedom of Information
Act requests. However, as there are genuine concerns that empty properties
could be targeted for crimes, such as squatting, arson, metal theft,
identity theft, etc., and that this could lead to further public
endangerment, the Council believes that this information should be
withheld from being disclosed into the public domain. 


This decision is based on a proven threat to the prevention of crime and
has been agreed in previous decisions of the Information Commissioner’s
Office [1]Decision Notice FS50786336


Providing a list of the addresses of empty properties would provide those
intent on committing crimes associated with such properties with an easy
way to identify them.  The resultant prejudice which the Council believes
would occur is one that can be categorised as one that would be real and
of substance. Given the types of crimes involving empty properties that
the Council has identified, the assertion is that disclosure of the
addresses falling within the scope of this request represents more than a
hypothetical risk of harming the prevention of crime. 


Section 31 is a qualified exemption, meaning it is subject to the public
interest test. The information can only be withheld if the public interest
in withholding it outweighs the public interest in releasing it. A summary
of these considerations is provided below.


Public Interest Arguments for Disclosure


o Disclosure could provide the public with a greater insight into the
administration of the empty properties in Walsall


o Disclosure could evidence that those properties that should be subject
to empty premium, are charged it.


Public Interest Arguments for withholding information


o It is not in the public interest to disclose information that aids
individuals to commit crimes.


o The council needs to be able to effectively carry out its functions
with businesses, and to rely on the utmost integrity and security


o The potential for indirect consequences of crime, for example the
impact on neighbouring properties of crimes carry out on the empty

Balance of the public interest

The Council acknowledges that it could be seen to be in the public
interest to disclose the addresses as it might provide some insight,
albeit relatively limited, into the administration of Council Tax by the
Council.  However, the Council is firmly of the view that such interests
are greatly outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that criminals
are not aided in using empty properties in the Walsall Borough for crime.


Further, a great deal of information on the administration of local taxes
is already published as part of the councils Open Data programme:



Therefore the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the
public interest in disclosing the addresses of the empty properties.

Most of the information that we provide in response to Freedom of
Information Act 2000 and Environmental Information Regulations 2004
requests will be subject to copyright protection.  In most cases the
copyright will be owned by Walsall Council. The copyright in respect of
other information may be owned by another person or organisation, as

You are free to use any information supplied to you in response to this
request for your own non-commercial research or private study purposes.
The information may also be used for any other purpose allowed by a
limitation or exception in copyright law, such as news reporting. 
However, any other type of re-use, for example by publishing the
information in analogue or digital form, including on the internet, will
require the permission of the copyright owner.

I hope that the information provided is useful to you. However, if you are
dissatisfied, you should set out in writing your grounds for complaint and
send to: Corporate Assurance Manager, Resources & Transformation, Civic
Centre, Darwall Street, Walsall, WS1 1TP.

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint, you may apply
directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for a decision.
Please remember that, generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you
have first exhausted the complaints procedure provided by the council. The
Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information
Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9
5AF. [3]https://ico.org.uk/global/contact-us/

Yours sincerely,

Fakhara Qanwal


Assurance Team, Resources and Transformation

Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council,

Civic Centre,

Darwall Street,

Walsall, WS1 1DG

Email: [Walsall Council request email]

Service area: [4]walsall.gov.uk/ Information Governance and Assurance

Website:  [5]www.walsall.gov.uk



WITHOUT THE EXPRESS CONSENT OF THE AUTHOR. The information in this message
should be regarded as confidential and is intended for the addressee only
unless explicitly stated.  If you have received this message in error it
must be deleted and the sender notified.  The views expressed in this
message are personal and not necessarily those of Walsall MBC unless
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Information or Environmental Information legislation and therefore could
be disclosed to third parties.


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