“In terms of the relevant Freedom of Information legislation (FOI) I would be grateful if you could let me have details of the following:-
1] A list of Council buildings that are laying empty and/or unused as at the date of this FOI request?
As at the date of this FOI request Devon County Council (DCC) has 25 empty sites containing buildings. Of the 25 sites;
- 1 is being advertised on the market for sale or lease
- 9 are being prepared for marketing or subject to legal clarification
- 6 are “sale agreed”
- 2 are being held pending transfer to another public body
- 2 are being held pending interest from community groups and/or consultation
- 3 are being held for potential Education use
- 2 sites are required for use with a highways scheme
DCC feels that it is unable to release information that would enable its vacant properties to be identified. The reason for this is that we believe that if this information were disclosed into the wider public domain, it could expose those properties to a greater risk of being subject to crimes such as vandalism and squatting. DCC therefore considers this information to be exempt under Section 31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act (prejudice the prevention or detection of crime).
DCC’s position on this matter has been supported by the Courts in the case of Voyias v Information Commissioner and London Borough of Camden (EA/2011/0007). In this case the court also concluded that the London Borough of Camden were not obliged to supply details of vacant properties, as the information was exempt under Section 31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act.
DCC recognises that there is a public interest in openness and transparency. However, the Council believes that there is a strong public interest in avoiding circumstances which might lead to Council owned properties being exposed to a greater risk of crime. It also feels that there is a strong public interest in protecting properties and therefore avoiding the considerable public expense that would be incurred in dealing with crime associated with our empty properties. For these reasons the Council considers that the balance of public interest weighs in favour of withholding this information from disclosure.
2] A list of your Council buildings that are for sale as at the date of this FOI request?
DCC currently has 1 site (with buildings) that are being marketed for sale as at May 2018. DCC properties are advertised for sale on Rightmove through our agents (NPS SW Ltd).
3] A list of your Council buildings that will be coming up for sale within the next 12 months starting from the date of this FOI request?
There are currently 7 DCC assets which are identified to be marketed within the next twelve months. Once properties are on the market they will be advertised on Rightmove, and/or through agents. The details of the sites are not provided at this time consistent with the response to Q1.
4] Copies of the official council minutes relating to the last four meetings of your Council’s property committee (appropriately redacted to avoid unnecessary refusal of this FOI)?”
The minutes of Cabinet meetings can be found at: https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CommitteeId=133
Any delegated decision regarding property and land can be found listed against the Resources & Asset Management area of the “Schedule of Cabinet Member Decisions taken since previous meeting”. This detail is published towards the end of each Cabinet Agenda
The last four Cabinet Agendas can be found under ‘Agenda Report Packs’ via the below links:-
14th November 2018 – here – page 54
10th October 2018 – here – page 149
12th September 2018 – here – page 39
11th July 2018 – here – page 171