Empty Properties List

The request was refused by Wandsworth Borough Council.

Dear Wandsworth Borough Council,

I am looking for a list of long term empty property within the
councils area. I'm particularly looking for empty homes owned by
individuals or businesses that I could purchase, renovate and bring back
to use. Would you be able to supply me with these under the Freedom of
Information Act? A spreadsheet will suffice, I require no personal
information simply the property address.

Yours faithfully,

Phillip

Freedom Of Information,

Official

 

Wandsworth Request for Information - 2018/17057 - Empty property lists

 

I refer to your request for information received on 11/06/2018. Please
find our response below.

 

Your request:

 

I am looking for a list of long term empty property within the councils
area. I'm particularly looking for empty homes owned by individuals or
businesses that I could purchase, renovate and bring back to use. Would
you be able to supply me with these under the Freedom of Information Act?
A spreadsheet will suffice, I require no personal information simply the
property address.

Our response: 

 

We are unable to provide a list of empty properties as we consider
disclosing this information would make them a target of crime.  Please
refer to the legal appendix below for our detailed legal reasoning.

 

If you are seeking ownership or contact details for properties you are
interested in you may wish to consider using the Land Registry.

 

[1]https://www.gov.uk/government/organisati...

 

Please note that there may be a fee involved in using this service.

 

Appendix 1

 

Detailed legal reasoning for refusal

 

Section 31 – Law Enforcement:

 

We are unable to provide details of empty residential properties as we
consider disclosing this information would make them a target of crime.
Therefore, this information is exempt from disclosure under section 31 of
the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

 

Pursuant to section 31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI
Act), public authorities are not obliged to release information that would
be likely to prejudice the functions of law enforcement- namely the
prevention and detection of crime.

 

Enquiries to the Metropolitan Police indicate that the release of this
type of information where buildings are situated would increase the
potential for:

• Buildings to be targeted by squatters
• Buildings to be targeted by criminals or terrorists intent on hiding
or depositing proceeds of crime of terrorist materials
• Premises to be identified as short-term hiding places by criminals or
terrorists
• Premises to be targeted by vandals or street artists

 

We have also taken into account the [2]Information Tribunal Case No.
EA/2011/0007 ('the Camden case'),  in which the Tribunal was satisfied
that the evidence suggests that disclosing this information would have the
effect of assisting at least some of those wishing to engage in squatting,
leading to an increase in the instances of such activity.

Squatting in residential property has itself become a criminal offence
which demonstrates the destructive nature of squatting and the associated
crimes. Information on empty commercial properties could also lead to
crime associated with squatting such as vandalism and the theft of
fixtures and fittings. The Tribunal concluded that an increase in
squatting would also lead to various categories of associated criminal
activity. As a result the Tribunal found that section 31(1) (a) was
engaged in that it was likely that disclosure of the disputed information
would have a negative impact on the prevention of crime.

 

The Information Commissioner’s Office has also re-confirmed section 31 is
applicable for information about empty properties in a recent decision
involving the [3]Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

 

Section 31 is a qualified exemption and we are obliged to consider the
public interest test.

 

Factors in favour of disclosure

 

There are general arguments in favour of disclosure, in relation to
promoting transparency and accountability of public authorities, which we
have noted in relation to this information.

There are also benefits in disclosure to the wider public, in relation to
raising the profile of unused or vacant properties in order to encourage
public debate.

 

Factors in favour of maintaining the s 31(1)(a) exemption

 

It is our view that there are strong arguments that weigh in favour of
maintaining this exemption.

 

In the Camden case the Tribunal noted that there is an inherent public
interest in crime prevention. It was also found that there were many costs
associated with squatting, such as repair, security and eviction costs.
The negative impact of squatting was not only directed towards to the
property owners affected but also the surrounding community and public
authorities involved. Ultimately the Tribunal found that the combined
factors in favour of maintaining the exemption contributed very
considerable weight to the public interest in withholding the information.
This decision is consistent with the advice received from the previous
Borough Commander.

 

Taking into account the above issues, we consider there to be no
over-riding public interest in releasing this information. Any public
interest would be best served by upholding the exemption under Section 31
of the FOI Act as disclosure of the information would be likely to
prejudice the prevention of crime by enabling or encouraging the
commission of offences.

Applicants should be aware that the decision to withhold this information
and our reliance on exemption section 31 of the FOI Act has been upheld by
an Internal Review.

 

We consider that it would exceed the appropriate limit, as specified in
the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and
Fees) Regulations 2004; therefore section 12(1) of the Act applies.

 

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 2000 this letter acts as
a Refusal Notice.

 

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

 

FOI & DPA Manager - Room 149, Wandsworth Town Hall, Wandsworth High
Street, London, SW18 2PU

 

E-mail: [4][Wandsworth Council request email]  

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the internal appeal you may
appeal further to the Information Commissioner’s Office at:

 

Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

 

[5]www.ico.org.uk

 

J. Palmer
FOI & DPA Officer

Serving Richmond and Wandsworth Council

[6][email address

[7]www.richmond.gov.uk / [8]www.wandsworth.gov.uk

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References

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2. http://www.informationtribunal.gov.uk/DB...
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4. mailto:[Wandsworth Council request email]
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7. http://www.richmond.gov.uk/
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