Property and Assets and Buildings

The request was refused by Northumberland County Council.

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: 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

Northumberland County Council

1 Attachment

Our Ref: 4655   

Dear Enquirer,


I refer to your Freedom of Information request for details regarding the
County Council's Vacant Properties.

Right of Access

Section 1(1) of the Act provides any person making a request for
information to a public authority is entitled.

(a) to be informed in writing by the public authority whether it holds
information of the description specified in the request (which Section
1(6) of the Act designates as the "duty to confirm or deny"), and

(b) if that is the case, to have that information communicated to him.

The right is to obtain access to the information itself and not to the
document or record which contains it.

The Act creates a general right of access to information held by public
authorities subject to various exemptions.

Duty to confirm or deny

We hold the information you requested. However we are withholding that
information since we consider that the exemption under Section 31(1)(a)

We consider that the public interest in maintaining the exemption
outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.


The Freedom of Information Act sets out various exemptions to the right of

In the present case the County Council takes the view that the information
relating to your request is exempt under the following provisions;

31 Law enforcement.

(1) Information which is not exempt information by virtue of section 30 is
exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be
likely to, prejudice—

(a) the prevention or detection of crime,
(b) the apprehension or prosecution of offenders,
(c) the administration of justice,
(d) the assessment or collection of any tax or duty or of any imposition
of a similar nature,
(e) the operation of the immigration controls,
(f) the maintenance of security and good order in prisons or in other
institutions where persons are lawfully detained,
(g) the exercise by any public authority of its functions for any of the
purposes specified in subsection (2),
(h) any civil proceedings which are brought by or on behalf of a public
authority and arise out of an investigation conducted, for any of the
purposes specified
in subsection (2), by or on behalf of the authority by virtue of Her
Majesty’s prerogative or by virtue of powers conferred by or under an
enactment, or
(i) any inquiry held under the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiries
(Scotland) Act 1976 to the extent that the inquiry arises out of an
investigation conducted, for any of the purposes specified in subsection
(2), by or on behalf of the authority by virtue of Her Majesty’s
prerogative or by virtue of powers conferred by or under an enactment.

(2) The purposes referred to in subsection (1)(g) to (i) are—

(a) the purpose of ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply
with the law,
(b) the purpose of ascertaining whether any person is responsible for any
conduct which is improper,
(c) the purpose of ascertaining whether circumstances which would justify
regulatory action in pursuance of any enactment exist or may arise,
(d) the purpose of ascertaining a person’s fitness or competence in
relation to the management of bodies corporate or in relation to any
profession or other activity which he is, or seeks to become, authorised
to carry on,
(e) the purpose of ascertaining the cause of an accident,
(f) the purpose of protecting charities against misconduct or
mismanagement (whether by trustees or other persons) in their
(g) the purpose of protecting the property of charities from loss or
(h) the purpose of recovering the property of charities,
(i) the purpose of securing the health, safety and welfare of persons at
work, and
(j) the purpose of protecting persons other than persons at work against
risk to health or safety arising out of or in connection with the actions
of persons at work.

(3) The duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that,
compliance with section 1(1)(a) would, or would be likely to, prejudice
any of the matters mentioned in subsection (1).

Notice of Refusal

Please treat this letter as a Notice of Refusal as regards the information
covered by the Section 31 Exemption.

Advice and Assistance

The County Council recognises its statutory duty to provide advice and
assistance under Section 16 of the Act.

Subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, the Council
is seeking to be transparent and open in its response.


If you are unhappy with the way your request for information has been
handled, you can request an internal review by writing within 2 months
from the date of this response to the Information Governance Office:

Information Governance Office
Northumberland County Council
County Hall
NE61 2EF

Email: [Northumberland County Council request email]

Information Commissioner

If you remain dissatisfied with the handling of your request or complaint,
you have a right by Section 50 of the Act to apply to the Information
Commissioner for a decision as to whether your request has been dealt with
in accordance with the requirements of the Act at:

The Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane

Tel: 01625 545 745 / Fax: 01625 524 510
Email: [email address]

There is no charge for making an appeal

Yours sincerely

FOI Coordinator - Property Services
Information Governance Office
Northumberland County Council
County Hall
NE61 2EF

Tel: 0345 600 6400
Email: [Northumberland County Council request email]