Empty homes list Greenwich council

F Manclark made this Freedom of Information request to Greenwich Borough Council

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

Response to this request is long overdue. By law, under all circumstances, Greenwich Borough Council should have responded by now (details). You can complain by requesting an internal review.

Dear Greenwich Borough Council,

I request the addresses of any properties that are privately owned, council owned, or commercial, that have been empty or have not payed council tax for 6 months or longer, of which you have knowledge.

I do not require any information covered by the data protection act.

When considering this request would you kindly take note of the recent ruling re: Camden Borough Council (Case No: EA/2011/0007, Voyias v. London Borough of Camden)

Yours faithfully,

F Manclark

Dear F Manclark,

Your Freedom of Information Request has been logged as RFI/04764. You
may expect a response within the prescribed 20 working days, i.e. by
25th September 2012.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Miller
Corporate Information Security Compliance Officer
Corporate ICT
Royal Borough of Greenwich

' 020 8921 5712 * 07805 747 212
* The Woolwich Centre, 35 Wellington Street, London SE18 6HQ
* www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk

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Dear Greenwich Council,

As of yet I have not received a response to my 'Freedom Of Information' act request.

This is just a polite to ask if you could please review my request and respond within the alloted time (no later than 25th September).

Thank you for your time,
Yours sincerely,

F Manclark

paul miller,

Dear F Manclark,

I have forwarded your request to the relevant departments and we will
endeavour to have a response with you by the 25th September.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Miller
Corporate Information Security Compliance Officer
Corporate ICT
Royal Borough of Greenwich

' 020 8921 5712 * 07805 747 212
* The Woolwich Centre, 35 Wellington Street, London SE18 6HQ
* www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk

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paul miller,

Dear F Manclark,

I write with reference to your recent Freedom of Information request,
shown below.

Our response to you is as follows:-

I can confirm that the Royal Borough of Greenwich holds the information
for privately owned and council owned properties. However, this
information is exempt under section 31(1)(a) of the Act. Information is
exempt information if its disclosure would, or would be likely to
prejudice,

“The prevention or detection of crime”.

We consider that by putting this information into the public domain it is
likely to increase the level of break-ins and metal thefts from the Royal
Borough of Greenwich’s vacant properties. This could also lead to an
increase in criminal activity as well as endangering the safety of council
tenants and residents who reside in neighbouring properties.

We have also withheld this information under section 38 (1)(a)(b) of the
Act
This information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act
would, or would be likely to
“endanger the safety of any individual”.

There have been a number of incidents that have occurred as a result of
break-ins to our vacant stock for metal thefts, which has caused over
£70,000 worth of damage. In a recent case, the damage caused to one of our
council properties resulted in flooding which resulted in a collapsed
ceiling of the tenant’s flat below.

We consider that by placing a list of derelict properties into the public
domain there is a likelihood the safety of our tenants and residents could
be endangered. This is demonstrated by the case we have referred to in the
paragraph above.

Both section 31(1)(a) and 38(1)(b) are qualified exemptions and we have
considered the public interest test in accordance with section 2(1)(b) of
the Act.

“in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining
the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing whether the
public authority holds the information”.

We have considered the following factors  in favour of disclosure and they
are:-
• Placing the requested information would assist the general public
interest in openness, an important aspect of which includes increasing
public debate concerning the number of derelict properties within the
Royal Borough of Greenwich.

• The disclosure of this information would be of use to those
organisations such as English Heritage, the Empty Homes Agency, Urban
Explorers who have an interest in empty properties and their
rehabilitation.

• There is a public interest in public authorities being accountable and
transparent. It would assist the general public in understanding how the
Royal Borough of Greenwich uses its resources it decision in relation to
empty properties.

The factors that weigh in favour of maintaining the exemption are:-
that disclosure of this information into the public domain could increase
the likelihood of break-ins to the Royal Borough of Greenwich's housing
stock and other properties within the borough.

If this happened, it is likely that the residents in close proximity to
these empty properties could be under threat because a crime had been
committed close to them. We expect residents to feel secure in their
homes.

Section 144 of The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act
2012 makes it a criminal offence to squat in a residential building.  A
person convicted of an offence is liable on summary conviction to
imprisonment for a term not exceeding 51 weeks or a fine of up to £5,000
or both. 

Releasing the addresses of properties that have been empty or have not
paid council tax for 6 months or longer would be likely to lead to an
increase in the number of properties squatted (as Voyias found) and
therefore in each case to the commission of a criminal offence.  Releasing
the addresses would therefore prejudice the prevention of crime. 
Parliament has legislated to create a criminal offence where previously
none existed.  It will have considered that the social and other
disruption caused by squatting outweighs the possibility that the presence
of organised squatters could prevent the use of premises for more socially
disruptive crime, and the possibility of bringing a proportion of empty
properties back in to use quicker than would otherwise be the case. 

The Royal Borough of Greenwich agrees, and therefore considers that the
public interest in withholding this information outweighs the public
interest in disclosure. 

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the
right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be
submitted within two months of the date of receipt of your response to
your original letter and should be addressed to: Mary Ney, Chief
Executive, The Town Hall, Wellington Street, Woolwich, London, SE18 6PW.

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications.
If you are not content with the outcome of your internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a
decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information
Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9
5AF

Yours sincerely

Paul Miller
Corporate Information Security Compliance Officer
Corporate ICT
Royal Borough of Greenwich

' 020 8921 5712  À 07805 747 212
*   The Woolwich Centre, 35 Wellington Street, London SE18 6HQ
8 [1]www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk

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