Unused Council Properties

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 the FOI request Devon County Council (DCC) has 33 empty sites containing buildings. Of the 33 sites;

  • 4 are being advertised on the market for sale or lease
  • 8 are being prepared for marketing or subject to legal clarification
  • 8 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
  • 5 are being held for potential Education use
  • 1 is a leasehold site that we are terminating the lease
  • 3 sites are required for use with a highways scheme

The Council feels that we are unable to release information that would enable our vacant properties to be identified. The reason for this is that we believe that if this information were disclosed into the wider public domain, this would be likely to have the effect of exposing those properties to a greater risk of being subject to crimes such as vandalism and squatting. Therefore we consider this information is exempt under Section 31(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act (prejudice the prevention or detection of crime).

Devon County Council’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.

Devon County Council 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 being subjected to crime. We also feel that there is a strong public interest in protecting properties and therefore avoiding the considerable public expense that would be incurred 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 3 sites (with buildings) that are being marketed for sale as at May 2017. There is also one site being advertised for lease (farm tenancy). 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 likely to come to the market 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 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)?

DCC do not have a formal property committee.  Decisions to dispose of property are made either through Cabinet, or through a delegated Cabinet Member Decision.

The minutes of Cabinet meetings can be found at http://democracy.devon.gov.uk/ieListMeetings.aspx?CId=133&Year=0 

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