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Property and Assets and Buildings

Viran Patel made this Freedom of Information request to Hertfordshire County Council as part of a batch sent to 500 authorities

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

We're waiting for Viran Patel to read recent responses and update the status.

Dear Organisation,

I would like to know a full list of Vacant Properties held by your organisation and any of its subsidiaries.

If possible their market value for sale or to let, whether they would be considered for a community asset transfer, if not then whether they are for sale or to let. In a clear and easy to read format. It would be supportive if the property is for sale or to let that it is listed on here too: https://e-pims.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/gove... and that you inform us of this intention or such listing in the request.

In the previous case in Voyias v IC and LB Camden (EA/201v1/0007), the requesters asked for substantially similar information, and the judge favoured disclosure. I appreciate the circumstances here are quite different, but the same principles should apply.

I understand there is a risk that your empty properties would be targeted by squatters should this the list of empty properties be public, but this is a very slim risk. The prejudice to law enforcement should be real, likely and substantial, as per Hogan v the ICO and Oxford City Council. I can assure you that my request is not sent in order to cause trouble for the authority, it is predominantly for my own research, with publication as part of campaigning materials. I am concerned at the sale of public assets, not a not an advocate for their illegal occupation. I would also say that I cannot imagine the disclosure of this list of properties to significantly affect a squatting problem that pre-existed my interest in the organisation. Overall the prejudice to law enforcement is very slim, and not severe. Since 12 months will be the time that this information will be released onto this site, unless others request this information separately. The requester is not liable for any issues that may arise in between or after.

It is in the public interest and transparency that this information is made publicly available under the public sector duty under the equality act allowing people to know of this information and make use of it under the Community Asset Transfer scheme and under the Human Rights Act Article 11 enabling the community to gather and make decisions on the allocation of such assets.

Yours faithfully,

Viran Patel

Information Governance, Hertfordshire County Council

Dear Viran Patel

 

Reference number: EIR/ENV/07/18/15998

 

Thank you for your correspondence of the 29^th July 2018 which due to
being a Sunday (non-working day) the first day that you request can be
considered as being received is from today 30^th July 2018. In your
correspondence you requested the following information:

 

“I would like to know a full list of Vacant Properties held by your
organisation and any of its subsidiaries.

 

If possible their market value for sale or to let, whether they would be
considered for a community asset transfer, if not then whether they are
for sale or to let. In a clear and easy to read format. It would be
supportive if the property is for sale or to let that it is listed on here
too:
https://e-pims.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/gove...
and that you inform us of this intention or such listing in the request.”

 

You made your request under the Freedom of Information Act, but as your
request concerns information that we feel falls within the definition of
Environmental Information and therefore it is more appropriate to respond
to it as an EIR request.  An explanation of Environmental Information
Regulations and your rights to information under it is available on the
Information Commissioner’s website at [1]https://ico.org.uk/ We will
respond to your request as quickly as possible, and by close of 24^th
August 2018 at the latest.

 

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, quoting
the reference number above.

                              

Yours sincerely,

 

Daisy Maniez, sent on behalf of:

Michael Warby

Information Access Manager

Information Access Team

Hertfordshire County Council

Postal Point CHN 320

County Hall,

Hertford, SG13 8DQ

01992 555848 (25848) 

Email: [2][Hertfordshire County Council request email]

****Disclaimer****

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 Hertfordshire County Council unless explicitly stated. Please be aware
that emails sent to or received from Hertfordshire County Council may be
intercepted and read by the council. Interception will only occur to
ensure compliance with council policies or procedures or regulatory
obligations, to prevent or deter crime, or for the purposes of essential
maintenance or support of the email system.

References

Visible links
1. https://ico.org.uk/
2. mailto:[Hertfordshire County Council request email]

Information Governance, Hertfordshire County Council

3 Attachments

Dear Viran Patel,

 

Reference number: EIR/ENV/07/18/15998

 

It is with regret that we have been unable to complete our response within
the 20 working-days as required by the Act. This is due to the difficulty
that we are experiencing in collating the information that you have
requested. 

Please be assured that we are dealing with your request as matter of
urgency and we hope to provide you with a final response by 9^th September
2018.

 

Please accept my apology for the delay that you have experienced and for
any inconvenience that this delay may have caused, we will endeavour to
provide you with the information as soon as possible.

 

I appreciate that you may wish to request an internal review of the
handling of your request and the delay that you have experienced but I
would ask that you wait until you have received our official response
before requesting a review, as it is often best to be in full receipt of
our response as you may wish to query further points other than the delay.

                          

Yours sincerely,

 

Michael Warby

Information Access Manager

Information Access Team

Hertfordshire County Council

Postal Point CHN 320

County Hall,

Hertford, SG13 8DQ

01992 555848 (25848) 

Email: [1][Hertfordshire County Council request email]

 

The Information Access Team supports Hertfordshire County Council's
Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations activity.

Hertfordshire - County of Opportunity

Follow us online:

[2]herts-county-council logo  [3]twitter icon  [4]facebook icon

 

 

 

****Disclaimer****

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 Hertfordshire County Council unless explicitly stated. Please be aware
that emails sent to or received from Hertfordshire County Council may be
intercepted and read by the council. Interception will only occur to
ensure compliance with council policies or procedures or regulatory
obligations, to prevent or deter crime, or for the purposes of essential
maintenance or support of the email system.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[Hertfordshire County Council request email]
2. http://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/
3. http://twitter.com/hertscc
4. https://www.facebook.com/hertscountycoun...

Information Governance, Hertfordshire County Council

3 Attachments

Dear Viran Patel

 

Reference number: FOI/ENV/07/18/15998

 

On 30^th July 2018 Hertfordshire County Council received the following
request for information from you:

 

I would like to know a full list of Vacant Properties held by your
organisation and any of its subsidiaries.

 

If possible their market value for sale or to let, whether they would be
considered for a community asset transfer, if not then whether they are
for sale or to let. In a clear and easy to read format. It would be
supportive if the property is for sale or to let that it is listed on here
too:
https://e-pims.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/gove...
and that you inform us of this intention or such listing in the request.

 

Your request for information has been considered under the Environmental
Information Regulations 2004 and I can inform you that the County Council
is not prepared to release any information in relation to the location
information that you have requested as it is considered that this
information is exempt under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act
2000. Please below the statutory exemption applicable to this section of
your question:

 

Section 31 (1) (a): Prejudicial to law enforcement, which states:

 

“(1) Information is exempt information if its disclosure under the Act
would, or world be likely to prejudice –

(a) the prevention or detection of crime.”

 

In determining whether this exemption is engaged we have taken into
account the findings of London Borough of Bexley v Colin England
(EA/2006/0060 and 0066) and the Decision Notice involving the London
Borough of Tower Hamlets (FS5025991).In particular the First Tier Tribunal
decision in London Borough of Bexley v Colin England (EA/2006/0060 and
0066) found that:

 

1.    There is evidence that empty properties are associated with criminal
activity from organised local gangs (paragraph 41 - identified occasions
of organised ‘stripping’ of empty properties).

 

2.    The disclosure of the list of properties would be of use to
squatters and would on the balance of probabilities lead to significant
harm in the form of criminal activity (paragraph 63).

 

We note that the exemption was also found to be engaged in the recent
decision of the First Tier Tribunal involving Voyias and Camden where they
found a direct link between squatting and crime (EA/2011/0007).

 

In debating if the use of this exemption is applicable we have considered
the public interest test.

 

The arguments for releasing this information are as follows:   

 

o To release the information would assist the general public interest in
openness. Important aspects of which would include the increase in
public debate concerning empty properties and how they are secured
within Hertfordshire.

 

While the arguments for not releasing this information are as follows:

 

o There is a strong public interest in avoiding the likely prejudice to
the prevention of crime. Tackling these types of crimes would involve
a significant strain on public expense and it is in the public
interest to ensure that public resources are used cost-effectively.  
o the public interest in avoiding damage to property;
o the efficient use of public and police resources;
o the potential for indirect consequences of crime, for example the
impact on neighbouring properties of crimes perpetrated on the empty
properties

 

It is felt that the public interest in preventing crime from being
committed outweighs the public interest releasing the information.

 

I can also confirm that the section of your request that concerns the
market value of the County Council’s vacant property is considered as
exempt under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Please
below the statutory exemption applicable to this section of your question:

 

Section 43: Prejudicial to commercial interests

 

This exemption applies because as these properties are vacant it is highly
likely that the County Council is intending to use these properties either
by renting them out of selling them off and disclosure of this information
would mean that the County Council would prejudice its own commercial
interests, as we would be placing into the public domain information
concerning the value that we are hoping to receive, and release of this
information would be prejudicial to the financial interests of the Council
in obtaining maximum value for money. As part of this refusal we have
considered the public interest below:

 

 

The public interest arguments for releasing this information are as
follows:

 

·         To encourage transparency of the County Council’s assets and
decisions that are made in relation to those assets.

 

The public interest arguments for withholding the information are as
follows:

 

o This information is not in the public domain and would not be put into
the public domain.
o This information relates to commercial activity as it concerns a
monetary value that the County Council has placed the properties that
it owns.
o If released, any future sales or rent negotiations would be
jeopardised if this information is released as we may struggle to
achieve maximum value for money on those properties, as out position
in a competitive environment would be weakened by revealing
market-sensitive information.

On balance we feel the public interest is better served by withholding
this information.

 

However in order to advise and assist you I can inform you that can
provide you with the table below that highlights vacant properties per
town within Hertfordshire.

 

No. of
Town assets
Baldock 1
Bishops Stortford 1
Borehamwood 3
Bushey 2
Cheshunt 1
Harpenden 2
Hatfield 6
Hemel Hempstead 2
Hertford 3
Hitchin 1
Hoddesdon 1
Kings Langley 1
Letchworth Garden
City 4
London Colney 1
Pirton 1
Potters Bar 1
Rickmansworth 1
South Oxhey 2
St Albans 3
Stevenage 7
Ware 2
Watford 14
Welwyn Garden City 2
Wormley 1
Grand Total 63

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, quoting
the reference number on this correspondence. To find out more about
Freedom of Information, please visit
[1]http://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/your-cou...

 

If you are unhappy with the way the County Council has handled your
request for information you may request an internal review of the request.
This will be carried out by a member of the County Council Legal Services
Team, who has had no prior involvement with the request. Requests for an
internal review should be sent to the Information Governance Unit at the
address above (within 2 months of this correspondence) and should detail
in writing your grounds of appeal.

                    

If you are unhappy with the outcome of the internal review you are
entitled to ask the Information Commissioner to investigate your
complaint. You should write to: FOI/EIR Complaints Resolution, Information
Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9
5AF.

                             

Yours sincerely,

 

Michael Warby

Information Access Manager

Information Access Team

Hertfordshire County Council

Room 216a

Postal Point CHN 320

County Hall,

Hertford, SG13 8DQ

01992 555848 (25848) 

Email: [2][Hertfordshire County Council request email]

 

The Information Access Team supports Hertfordshire County Council's
Freedom of Information and Environmental Information Regulations activity.

Hertfordshire - County of Opportunity

Follow us online:

[3]herts-county-council logo  [4]twitter icon  [5]facebook icon

 

 

 

****Disclaimer****

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 Hertfordshire County Council unless explicitly stated. Please be aware
that emails sent to or received from Hertfordshire County Council may be
intercepted and read by the council. Interception will only occur to
ensure compliance with council policies or procedures or regulatory
obligations, to prevent or deter crime, or for the purposes of essential
maintenance or support of the email system.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/your-cou...
2. mailto:[Hertfordshire County Council request email]
3. http://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/
4. http://twitter.com/hertscc
5. https://www.facebook.com/hertscountycoun...

We don't know whether the most recent response to this request contains information or not – if you are Viran Patel please sign in and let everyone know.