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Publication - FOI / EIR Release

Estimates of housing demand broken down by council: FOI release

Published: 19 Dec 2017

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

FOI reference: FOI/17/02381
Date received: 15 October 2017
Date responded: 13 December2017

Information requested

Information on current or recent housing need, demand and supply. In particular;

(1) the number of people considered to be homeless,

(2) estimates of housing demand preferably broken down into social housing, private rented and owner-occupier homes, and broken down by council area,

(3) estimates of housing starts and completions over recent years and of starts planned over coming years, preferably broken down by council area. You clarified that you were interested in information from the past ten years,

(4) any information the Scottish government holds on market research carried out by the construction industry on housing need, preferences and quality,

(5) correspondence relating to the planning application for a 'garden suburb' in west Edinburgh submitted by Murray Estates. This was clarified to all correspondence, including but not limited to the application itself,

(6) correspondence with councils and/or housebuilders about the practice of 'land banking'. You clarified that you were interested in information from the past ten years.

Response

As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

I enclose, in the covering email, a copy of the information you requested in relation to part 2 of your request:

Some of the information you requested (parts 1, 3 and 5) is available from the following links:

(1) 'Homelessness in Scotland 2016-17 Statistics'

http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/06/8907

(3) 'Housing Statistics for Scotland, Quarterly Update',

http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Housing-Regeneration

(5) A large amount of correspondence relating to this application is available at

http://www.dpea.scotland.gov.uk/CaseDetails.aspx?ID=117562

Under regulation 6(1)(b) of the EIRs, we do not have to give you information which is already publicly available and easily accessible to you in another form or format. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the websites listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested in parts 3 (specifically, estimates of starts planned over coming years), 4 and 6.

Therefore we are refusing your request for the above items under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs. The reasons why that exception applies are explained below. You may wish to contact Local Authority Housing Departments who may be able to help you. Contact details can be found on each Local Authority website.

With regard to part 5 of your request, specifically the information not already in the public domain, while our aim is to provide information whenever possible, under the exception at regulation 10(4)(b) of the EIRs a public authority may refuse a request for information if it is 'manifestly unreasonable'. The Scottish Information Commissioner's guidance on the regulation 10(4)(b) exception at: http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/Law/EIRs/EIRsExceptions.aspx says that there may "be instances where it is appropriate for the Commissioner to consider the proportionality of the burden on the public authority in terms of the costs and resources involved in dealing with a request when considering the application of this exception".

In this case we estimate that the total cost of locating, retrieving and providing the information request would be £1,845, comprising £945 for work already undertaken and a further £900 for work that would need to be undertaken if a 20 working days extension to the response deadline was applied (under regulation 7 of EIRs) and which would still not make the request manageable in terms of cost. A breakdown of the cost estimate is set out below. For these reasons, we consider that your request is manifestly unreasonable and so we are refusing it under regulation 10(4)(b).

A - Estimated staff time to locate and retrieve information

Grades Hours Days
C1 58 8.0
B3 60 8.3
B2 5 0.7

B. Estimated staff cost of locating and retrieving information

Grades Hours Cost Per Hour (£) Total Cost
C1 58 £15.00 £870.00
B3 60 £15.00 £900.00
B2 5 £15.00 £75.00
£1,845.00

As the exception is conditional we have applied the 'public interest test'. This means we have, in all the circumstances of this case, considered if the public interest in disclosing information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information about correspondence relating to the planning application for a 'garden suburb' in west Edinburgh submitted by Murray Estates this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring the efficient and effective use of public resources by not incurring excessive costs when complying with information requests.

You may however wish to consider reducing the scope of your request in order to make it manageable by specifying the types of correspondence you are interested in, including correspondence between which parties, the issue(s) you are trying to find out about and the time period you are interested in. You may also find it helpful to look at the Scottish Information Commissioner's 'Tips for requesting information under FOI and the EIRs' on her website at:

http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/YourRights/Tipsforrequesters.aspx.

Reasons for not providing information

The Scottish Government does not have the information.

Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), the Scottish Government is not required to provide information which it does not have.

The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested in part 3 of your request (specifically housing starts planned over coming years) because the Scottish Government is not responsible for estimates of starts planned over coming years broken down by council area. This is the responsibility of local authorities and you may wish to contact them for this information.

In addition, the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested in part 4 of your request because the Scottish Government has not commissioned any market research of this nature. It is the responsibility of Local Authorities to consider issues of housing need, preferences and quality as part of their strategic housing plans. You may wish to contact Local Authorities regarding this. Further, the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested in part 6 of your request.

This exception is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception.

While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information about estimates housing starts planned over coming years broken down by council area, information on market research carried out by the construction industry on housing need, preferences and quality and correspondence with councils and/or housebuilders about the practice of 'land banking', clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Published:
19 Dec 2017
Estimates of housing demand broken down by council: FOI release