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Property and Assets and Buildings

Viran Patel made this Freedom of Information request to Middlesbrough 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

foi, Middlesbrough Council

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Dear Mr Patel

 

REF NO: 013246

 

Thank you for your recent enquiry, received on 06/08/2018, in relation to
empty properties.  I can confirm that your enquiry is receiving attention
and a response will be provided within 20 working days following receipt
of your enquiry as allowed under the Freedom of Information Act
legislation.

 

In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, I will
let you know the likely charges before proceeding.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact me direct on (01642) 729696/729698 or
email [Middlesbrough Council request email] should you require any further advice or
assistance with this or any other matter.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Public Information Officer

 

Finance Governance & Support

Strategy Information & Governance

Middlesbrough Council

 

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foi, Middlesbrough Council

 

Dear Mr Patel

 

REF NO: 013246  

 

I am writing to confirm that Middlesbrough Council has now completed its
search for the information you requested on 6^th August 2018.

 

In your request you asked for 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:
[1]https://e-pims.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/gove...
and that you inform us of this intention or such listing in the request.

 

Response:   

 

I can confirm that Middlesbrough Council holds the information you
requested. However, we consider that the some of the requested information
is exempt from disclosure for the reasons provided below.

 

Under Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act, we are not required to
provide information, which is already reasonably accessible to you. 
Please refer to the link below and select ‘[2]Business Rates data -
detailed (list of properties eligible to pay Business Rates, including
discounts and exemptions), which contains a list of empty commercial
properties in Middlebrough.  The list does not include information
pertaining to sole traders and partnerships or individual residential
properties as this information is exempt under Section 31(1)(a) (the
prevention or detection of crime) and Section 40 (2) (personal data).

 

https://www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/open-da...

 

Section 40 (2) (Personal Data)

Information relating to sole traders, partnerships and individuals has
been exempted from release under section 40(2) of Freedom of Information
Act (FOIA) as we consider this information to be third party personal
information. Personal data is defined in the Data Protection Act 1998 as
data which relates to a living individual who can be identified from that
data, or from those data and other information which is in the possession
of, or is likely to come into the possession of, the data controller.
Following the Tribunal’s decision in the case of England & L B of Bexley v
Information Commissioner (EA/2006/0060 & 0066) (‘Bexley’), the Tribunal’s
decision was that the addresses of empty properties not owned by
individuals should be released together with the names of those owners. It
decided however that the information on individuals should be withheld. 
Following this lead, the Council considers that disclosing the addresses
of properties will therefore be personal data even without the
corresponding identification of the individuals.  The Tribunal’s
conclusion was that the addresses are personal data in the hands of the
Council because the addresses are held with ownership details from the
Council Tax register.

 

Section 31 (1) (a) (the prevention or detection of crime)

The information you have requested in respect of empty properties
pertaining to sole traders and partnerships, and individual residential
properties is exempt under Section 31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information
Act, and is therefore being withheld.

 

Section 31 is a qualified exemption and therefore the “public interest
test” was applied. The Council’s decision is that the release of the
information into the public domain would be likely to prejudice the
prevention of detection of crime. Whilst the Council accepts there are
indeed some advantages in the release of the information to the public at
large, I am not satisfied that this outweighs the public interest in
withholding the information for the following reasons:

 

· The risk that publication would prejudice the prevention of crime, as it
could lead to the likely targeting of those empty properties by those
engaged in vandalism, theft or other anti-social behaviour.

· The risk that publication would lead to increased anxiety and fear of
crime amongst occupants or adjacent residential and commercial properties,
as a result of the likely targeting of the empty properties by those
engaged in criminal and antisocial behaviour.

· The risk that publication could undermine efforts by the Council and
commercial property owners to bring empty properties back into use, in
order to improve local communities and reduce crime and vandalism in the
area around empty properties.

 

You can also find details of Council land and premises for sale and rent,
which are available on the Council website via the following link:

 

https://www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/busines...

 

If you have any queries about this response, please do not hesitate to
contact me direct on (01642) 729696/729698 or email
[3][Middlesbrough Council request email]. Please remember to quote the reference number
shown above in any future communications.

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled you may ask
for an internal review within 40 days of receipt of the response. You
should write to:-

Ann-Marie Johnstone

Corporate Strategy Manager

P.O. Box 500,

Civic Centre,

Middlesbrough.

TS1 9FT

 

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have
the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for an
independent review. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: -

 

Information Commissioner’s Office,
Wycliffe House,
Water Lane,
Wilmslow,
Cheshire,
SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely

 

Steph Robson

Information & Compliance Officer

 

Finance, Governance & Support

P.O. Box 500,

Civic Centre,

Middlesbrough.

TS1 9FT

Tel. 01642 729696

 

Email: [4][Middlesbrough Council request email]

 

All intellectual property rights are reserved. Trademarks, brand names,
company names, and logos are the property of Middlesbrough Council, or of
their respective owners. Reproduction, alterations, modification,
distribution, or re-publication in any format, without prior written
permission from the property owner is forbidden.

 

The Council's copyright and other intellectual property rights are
protected by UK laws and by international treaties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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References

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1. https://e-pims.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/gove...
2. https://www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/sites/d...
3. mailto:[Middlesbrough Council request email]
4. mailto:[Middlesbrough Council request email]

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.