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Andrew Smith made this Freedom of Information request to Stoke on Trent 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 Stoke on Trent City Council.

Dear Stoke on Trent City Council,

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

(a) addresses of "empty and derelict” properties that are
within Peterborough Council area; and

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

(c) The period of time they have been unoccupied for

The above questions relates to both residential and commercial
properties

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Smith

Customer Feedback, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Mr Smith

Thank you for your information request. You refer to properties that are within Peterborough Council's area. We do not have any properties in that area. Can you please clarify which area you are referring to.

Thank you

Information Rights Team
Stoke-on-Trent City Council

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Dear Customer Feedback,

Apologies, I meant the Stoke On Trent area

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Smith

FOI, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Mr Smith

Your request for information ref. SOT22251

Thank you for your request for information about empty and derelict
properties in this local authority’s area.  Your request was received by
the Information Rights Team on 07 February 2013.  This is being dealt with
under the terms of the appropriate Information Rights legislation.

In some circumstances we may charge for information.  If there is a charge
we will let you know, as you will have to pay it before we deal with your
request.

Some information does not have to be released under this legislation.  We
will check the information you have asked for and send you as much as
possible.  If another person or organisation is named in the information,
we may have to ask their opinion before we decide what we can give you.

 

You should expect to receive a response to your request on or before 07
March 2013 in line with the legislation's 20 working day statutory
deadline.

 

For your information we may publish the response to your request on our
City Council's website, which can be found at the following address:
[1]www.stoke.gov.uk.

 

If you have any queries about this email please do not hesitate to contact
us.

Yours sincerely

 

Information Rights

 

Information Rights | Support: People - Adult and Neighbourhood Services

Civic Centre Glebe Street

Stoke-on-Trent ST4 1HH

City of Stoke-on-Trent 

GF23 Stoke Town Hall  Glebe Street  Stoke-on-Trent  ST4 1HH

t 01782 232853

e [2][Stoke on Trent City Council request email]

 

For information about gritting, winter driving, and services during the
snow, please go to [3]www.stoke.gov.uk
**********************************************************************
Stoke-on-Trent City Council trade waste services. A locally based,
friendly service at competitive prices. To find out more visit
stoke.gov.uk/tradewaste or for a quote contact [4][email address]

**********************************************************************
Our vision is to provide Excellent Services, Valued by Customers, if you
think we have given you a good service, please click here to find out
about our awards: [5]www.stoke.gov.uk/wowawards
 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://www.stoke.gov.uk/
2. mailto:[Stoke on Trent City Council request email]
3. http://www.stoke.gov.uk/
4. mailto:[email address]
5. http://www.stoke.gov.uk/wowawards

FOI, Stoke on Trent City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Smith,

 

Your request for information on details of empty properties within the
Stoke-on-Trent Area

 

We have now considered your request for information and although we do
hold some of the information that you have asked for, unfortunately some
of it is exempt under section 31 (Law Enforcement), Section 38 (Health and
Safety) and Section 40 (Personal Data) of the Freedom of Information Act
and will not be provided. A copy of the information which can be provided
is enclosed below and attached.

 

Your Request.

(a) addresses of "empty and derelict" properties that are

     within Stoke-on-Trent City Council's {corrected following
clarification from requestor} area; and

 

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

    

 (c) The period of time they have been unoccupied for

    

     The above questions relates to both residential and commercial
properties

 

Residential - Council Owned

 

a) The Council does hold records relating to empty residential council
owned properties. However these records are exempt under Section 31 of the
Act.

 

Section 31 allows us to withhold information if it could be used to commit
a crime. This is because once the information has been released we have no
control over who the information will be passed to and the information
could be used to target empty properties for crime, such as theft,
vandalism, arson or squatting.

 

In addition to this, we can confirm that previously in Hanley there were
two fatalities (rough sleepers) as a result of a fire in an empty
property.  Subsequently two people were convicted of arson.

 

It is considered that the public interest in withholding information about
empty residential properties owned by the Council is stronger than the
public interest in disclosing it. This is because it is not in the public
interest to make available information that could be used to commit a
crime. Additionally the Council considers that the impact of these
properties being targeted could have a damaging effect to the local
neighbourhood which is not in the public interest.

 

b) The names of the owners of these properties are exempt from disclosure
under Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and will not be
released. Section 40(2) of the Act allows us to withhold information if it
relates to someone other than the data subject and where disclosing the
information would contravene the principles of the Data Protection Act
1998.

 

c) This is also exempt under Section 31 for the same reasons as above.

 

 

 

Residential – Private Owned 

The Council can confirm that it does not hold the information for
questions a, b or c.

 

Commercial – Council Owned

a)    Please find attached a spread sheet of commercial empty properties
owned by the council.

 

Some information contained in the attached spread sheet has been withheld
under Section 38 of the Act. This exemption applies where disclosure would
be likely to endanger the safety of an individual.

 

This exemption applies to information about council owned commercial empty
properties because the City Council does not regularly inspect council
owned empty properties, as we have no obligation to do so. This means that
the properties could be unsafe for unauthorised access.

 

Commercial - Privately Owned

a) The Council does hold records of empty commercial privately owned
properties, however these are exempt under Section 31 of the Act.

 

b) The names of the owners of these properties are exempt from disclosure
under Section 40 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and will not be
released.

Section 40(2) of the Act allows us to withhold information if it relates
to someone other than the data subject and where disclosing the
information would contravene the principles of the Data Protection Act
1998.

c) This is also exempt under Section 31 for the reasons explained above.

 

If this request is considered under the Environmental Information
Regulations 2004 some of the information would still be excepted under
Regulation 12(5)(a) and Regulation 12(5)(b).

 

The information supplied may be used for domestic or journalistic
purposes. Its use for commercial gain including issuing to the public may
be subject to the issue of a licence under the Reuse of Public Sector
Information Regulations 2005.

 

If you have any queries about this email, please do not hesitate to
contact us.

 

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your
request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision,
you should write to: Information Rights Manager, Customer Feedback and
Information Rights Team, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Corporate Services,
Floor 2 Civic Centre, Glebe Street, ST4 1HH or email [1][Stoke on Trent City Council request email].

 

If, after contacting us, you are not content with the outcome, you may ask
the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the Information
Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have already used our
appeal procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The
Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow,
Cheshire, SK9 5AF, tel. 0303 123 1113 or you can visit their website at
[2]www.ico.gov.uk/complaints.aspx.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Information Rights

 

Information Rights | Customer Access

 

 

 

 

 

For information about gritting, winter driving, and services during the
snow, please go to [3]www.stoke.gov.uk
**********************************************************************
Stoke-on-Trent City Council trade waste services. A locally based,
friendly service at competitive prices. To find out more visit
stoke.gov.uk/tradewaste or for a quote contact [4][email address]

**********************************************************************
Our vision is to provide Excellent Services, Valued by Customers, if you
think we have given you a good service, please click here to find out
about our awards: [5]www.stoke.gov.uk/wowawards
 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Stoke on Trent City Council request email]
2. http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints.aspx
3. http://www.stoke.gov.uk/
4. mailto:[email address]
5. http://www.stoke.gov.uk/wowawards

Dear FOI,

Please can you cofirm that this statment is true

"Residential – Private Owned

The Council can confirm that it does not hold the information for
questions a, b or c"

This information should be able to be generated via council tax records.

Please can you demonstrate how releasing a list of empty homes to developers will have a "significant negative impact on the prevention of crime". .

It is my belief that there will no increase in crime rates but rather a decrease. Developers looking for empty property's to bring back to the market will only have a positive effect on local crime rates.

If the council is to have a strong empty homes policy developers must be given the opportunity to invest in a area. Without such investment the spiral of decline in some areas will continue without fresh investment.

Your reasoning behind the refusal is the decision in the case of London Borough of Bexley v Mr Colin P England and the Information Commissioner, in which it was determined that releasing information of this type would be likely to have a significant negative impact on the prevention of crime.

The above case was successful as the Borough of Bexley as a particular problem with squatters. This is not the case on Stoke.

I can accept your reasoning behind not releasing property owners details and would be happy if this information is omitted.

I would be happy for any information to be emailed to me privately if this helps ?

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Smith

FOI, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Mr Smith

Freedom of Information Internal Review regarding your request for information about empty properties within the Stoke-on-Trent area

Thank you for your correspondence requesting an Internal Review, which was received on 3/03/2013, regarding your request for information about empty properties within the Stoke-on-Trent area.

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, an internal review is not a statutory requirement and there is no statutory timescale for the Council to respond. However the Council will conduct an internal review as recommended by the Section 45 Code of Practice. It does aim to deal with these quickly and where possible within 20 working days. However sometimes this is not possible, but please be assured that we will conduct a review and you will receive a response.

If you have any queries about this email please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours sincerely,
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly, Information Rights Manager
Customer Feedback & Information Rights Team, Corporate Services
City of Stoke-on-Trent
Floor 2, Civic Centre Glebe Street Stoke on Trent ST4 1HH
T: 01782 235965
e: [Stoke on Trent City Council request email]

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Alan Stead, Stoke on Trent City Council

Dear Sir

I refer to your request for a review of the decision made by the City
Council in response to your request for information relating to empty
Properties. You mention in your appeal certain case law which you believe
may have a relevance in the matter and you argue that, as you are a
developer,  a list of empty properties has the potential to remove these
properties and therefore remove them from the risk of criminal activity.

 

The Council on the other hand argued that to release the information could
potentially have an adverse effect on the prevention of crime in the areaa
nd that, they argue, there is evidence within the area to support this
argument.

 

There is some dispute as to the correct legislation under which this
information is requested. As the empty properties affect  the environment
it could be argued that the Environmental Information Regulations 2004
apply  however it could be counter argued that this effect is  secondary
and so the Freedom of Information Act 2000 applies. It is therefore
prudent to respond giving the appropriate legislative arguments under both
enactments.

 

It would seem that the Council have correctly applied and
exemption/exception and have also applied the public interest test
correctly. Therefore your appeal would relate to the actual application of
the public interest test was sound.

 

It is helpful to refer to the case you mention however it is also
necessary to refer to the recent case at first tier tribunal of IC v L  B
Camden. In this latter decision it was decided that the local authority
did properly apply the exemption/exception to prevent further criminal
activity. This is as a result of the  recent criminalisation of squatting.
However this does not mean that a blanket exemption/exception can be
applied as the evidence of squatting and other criminal acts in a
particular area also has to be taken into account.

 

In the situation of Stoke on Trent there is evidence of squatting and also
of arson attacks on empty properties, in one case resulting in
manslaughter. Requests under Information Rights legislation are purpose
blind and any declared purpose cannot be taken into account as the Council
 has no way of controlling the use except under copyright law (
information cannot be used for commercial gain or released to the public
without the issue of a licence). This is supported by the fact that the
request was made via a web site which publishes responses to the public
problem. Normally there is no problem with the use of this web site,
indeed it can be very helpful, and I am sure that your own intentions are
honourable, other individuals have public access to any response given by
the Council.

 

On reviewing the decision made by the City Council I am content that the
exemption/exception was applied properly and that there is sufficient
evidence in the area of the City that to release the information has the
probability that there would be an adverse effect on the prevention of
crime.

 

Therefore I regret that the appeal against the decision is not upheld.

 

If you disagree with this response you are encouraged to approach the
Information Commissioner and request an assessment.

 

 

 

Regards

 

Alan Stead

For FOI team

 

For information about gritting, winter driving, and services during the
snow, please go to [1]www.stoke.gov.uk
**********************************************************************
Stoke-on-Trent City Council trade waste services. A locally based,
friendly service at competitive prices. To find out more visit
stoke.gov.uk/tradewaste or for a quote contact [2][email address]

**********************************************************************
Our vision is to provide Excellent Services, Valued by Customers, if you
think we have given you a good service, please click here to find out
about our awards: [3]www.stoke.gov.uk/wowawards
 

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://www.stoke.gov.uk/
2. mailto:[email address]
3. http://www.stoke.gov.uk/wowawards