Empty Properties in Westminster

J. Hacaturjanca made this Freedom of Information request to Westminster City Council

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 Westminster City Council.

Dear Westminster City Council,

Please can you provide me with the following information under the
Freedom Of Information Act 2000:-

(a) addresses of “long term empty” Residential properties that are
within Westminster Council area; and

(b) the names of the owners of those properties referred to in (a)

Yours faithfully,

Jelena Hacaturjanca

Westminster City Council

Confirmation of Freedom Of Information Request

Thank you for your request for information.

Your request details have now been recorded and will be passed on to the
appropriate Divisional Records Officer for action.

This Freedom Of Information Request was based on the following
information:

Name: Jelena Hacaturjanca
Address: See email address
Email: [FOI #186266 email]
Telephone:
Request Details: Please can you provide me with the following information
under the Freedom Of Information Act 2000:-

(a) addresses of "long term empty" Residential properties that are within
Westminster Council area; and

(b) the names of the owners of those properties referred to in (a)

FOI Reference Number: 11834
Target Completion Date: 20/12/2013

Please do not reply to this email.
This is an automatic response to your request, and replies to this message
will not be actioned.

If you need to contact Westminster City Council regarding your request,
please contact:

mailto:[Westminster City Council request email]
Tel:020 7641 3921

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FOI, Westminster City Council

Dear Jelena Hacaturjanca

 

Thank you for your recent request whereby you asked for the following:

 

Please can you provide me with the following information under the Freedom
Of Information Act 2000:-

 

(a) addresses of “long term empty” Residential properties that are within
Westminster Council area; and

 

(b) the names of the owners of those properties referred to in (a)

 

 

Response

 

Your request for information has now been considered and will not be met
on this occasion. Under section 17 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000
this letter acts as a Refusal Notice for the information that you have
requested.

 

Exemption Section 31(1)(a)

 

It is this Authority’s view that Section 31 (1) (a) of the Freedom of
Information Act applies to your request for details of vacant properties.
This section provides that information is exempt from disclosure if such
disclosure would prejudice the “prevention or detection of crime”. 
Putting the addresses of empty properties (commercial or otherwise) within
the Borough into the public domain would in the Authority’s view
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 would lead to
burglary, arson, vandalism and other criminal activity, including
squatting.  In relation to domestic and commercial empty properties, there
is also known use of such empty properties to commit benefit fraud,
identity fraud and money laundering.

 

We have consulted with the Metropolitan Police and they have confirmed
that release of this type of information, would in the police’s view
increase the potential for the properties to be targeted by squatters, by
criminals or terrorists intent on hiding or depositing proceeds of crime
or terrorist materials.  There is also the potential for premises to be
identified as short-term hiding places by criminals or terrorists.

 

These incidents would support the concerns that the Authority has as to
the prejudice to the prevention of crime in the borough if the information
were disclosed.  The Act does not allow the Council to enquire as to
motives, nor do we have any control over distribution of the information
once it is “released” into the public domain.

 

 

 

Section 31 (1) (a) is a qualified exemption to which the public interest
test must be applied.  It is the council’s opinion that the benefit to the
public of withholding this information outweighs the benefit to the public
of providing it. It is acknowledged that there is public interest in the
council’s use of property and assets. However, for the reasons set out
above, it is considered that disclosure of the information to the world at
large would be likely to result in criminal activity being perpetrated in
or against the properties, which would in turn adversely impact on the
public purse. The public interest would therefore be better served in
maintaining the exemption, rather than in disclosure of the requested
information.

 

You have the right of appeal against the decision.  If you wish to appeal
please set out in writing your grounds of appeal and send to:

 

Knowledge & Information Management Team

Westminster City Hall

10th Floor East

64 Victoria Street

London

SW1E 6QP

T: 0207 641 3921

E: [1][email address]

 

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 FOIA.  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: [2]www.ico.gov.uk

 

 

Should you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact us
care of the details below.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Knowledge & Information Management Team

 

Westminster City Hall

10th Floor East

64 Victoria Street

London

SW1E 6QP

T: 0207 641 3921

E: [email address]

 

 

 

 

 

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