Where an information request is for environmental information it should be dealt with under Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) – not Freedom of Information (FoI).

Environmental Information Regulations have been in place since 1992, but have been revised to take into account the Aarhus Convention and the EU Directive on Public Access to Environmental Information.

For details on requesting environmental information please visit our requests for information page.

The regulations take account of FoI and share many common elements. However a few notable differences exist:

  • requests can be verbal or in writing
  • there is no delay to the 20-day response time whilst charges are made
  • there is no upper limit for charges above which a request can be refused
  • there is no fee structure but charges must not exceed the costs reasonably incurred
  • the response time can be extended in the case of complex or voluminous requests
  • all exceptions (equivalent to FoI exemptions) are subject to the public interest test

Environmental Information can include:

  • the state of the elements of the environment such as: air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites, wetlands and coastal and marine area
  • biological diversity and its components including genetically modified organisms
  • interaction between the elements in the above
  • factors such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste
  • emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment
  • measures such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes and environmental agreements
  • cost benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used in environmental decision-making
  • the state of human health and safety, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures in as much as they are affected by anything above

Refusing a Request

All exceptions under EIR are subject to a public interest test – so there are no absolute guarantees of non-disclosure. Refusals can be made under EIR if:

  • the information is not held (requests will be referred on)
  • a request is manifestly unreasonable
  • a request is too general (after requesting more details)
  • unfinished documents or data are requested (in which case an estimated time for completion will be provided)
  • a request involves disclosure of internal communication

Refusal can also be made if disclosure would adversely affect:

  • confidentiality of proceedings*
  • international relations, public security or defence issues
  • the course of justice and right to a fair trial
  • commercial confidentiality*
  • intellectual property rights
  • personal or voluntary data*
  • Environmental protection*

* Information relating to emissions is not affected and cannot be refused.