Environmental Information Regulations (EIR)
The Environmental Information Regulations allow people to request environmental information from public authorities and those bodies carrying out a public function and offer comparable rights of access to information as the Freedom of Information Act. The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 came into force on 1 of January 2005 and replaced the Environmental Information Regulations 1992.
The Information Commissioner’s Office oversee and enforce compliance with EIR.
What is environmental information?
The definition of environmental information is very wide and includes written, electronic, visual or audio information on:
- The state of the elements of the environment, for example: air, atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms
- Factors affecting the environment such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, including radioactive waste, emissions, discharges and other releases
- Measures (including administrative measures) and activities affecting or designed to protect the environment such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes and environmental agreements
- Reports on the implementation of environmental legislation
- Cost-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used within the framework of environmental measures and activities
- The state of human health and safety, including the contamination of the food chain, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures in as much as they are affected by the state of the environment, or factors, measures or activities affecting the environment
The council may refuse to disclose information where an exception applies and the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in its disclosure:
- Information is not held when the request is received
- The request is unreasonable
- The request is too general
- Information which is unfinished or in the course of being completed
- Request involves the disclosure of internal communications
- Disclosure would affect international relations, defence, national security or public safety
- Disclosure would affect the course of justice
- Intellectual property rights
- Confidentiality of proceedings
- Commercial or industrial confidentiality
- The interests of the council/supplier of the information
- Protection of the environment
- Personal information
If the council refuses to disclose all or part of the information requested, it must be stated, in writing, what exception the information falls under and to justify the decision that the exception should be applied. The authority will also inform the applicant that they have a right to appeal the decision, initially to Wyre Council itself then, if they remain dissatisfied, to the Information Commissioner’s Office. .
- The definition of environmental information is broad
- Any verbal or written request for environmental information is an EIR request
- All requests must be dealt within 20 working days, unless the request is complex/voluminous then it can be extended to 40 working days
- All of the exceptions are subject to the public interest test
Appealing a decision under EIR
If an applicant is not happy with how the request has been handled or how an exception has been applied, then he/she can appeal the decision. To do so the applicant should contact the council within 40 days of receiving the reply. The council will then consider the request and issue a decision accordingly. EIR legislation requires that the reviews are completed within 40 days commencing the day after receipt of a valid request for a review. The council aims to respond as soon as possible and no later than 40 working days after the date it receives the valid request.
If the applicant remains dissatisfied, then he/she can contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Further information about EIR can be found on the Information Commissioner’s website
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