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Environmental Information Regulations Guidance

The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004 came in to effect on January 1 2005, to coincide with the Freedom of Information Act. They extend the public's right to environmental information. The EIR are legally enforceable regulations that govern the public's right to access environmental information held by public authorities including local authorities. Environmental information covered by the regulations includes the state of the air, atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape, as well as factors affecting the above elements such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, emissions, discharges into the environment

Who do the Regulations apply to?

All public bodies and those bodies with public responsibilities for the environment (such as water companies) are covered by the Regulations.

How are EIR request handled by the Council?

Routine requests for environmental information should be handled informally. These are defined as simple requests which can be answered very quickly.

More complex requests for environmental information must be handled formally. These are requests that: 

  • are unclear as to the information requested require what you consider might be disproportionate effort

  • may be considered vexatious or repeated are otherwise complex. You may not hold the information, or you might be unsure about whether the applicant is entitled to the information.

These sorts of requests must be notified to the Council's Freedom of Information Officer,who is available to provide advice and assistance on the legislation.

Charges

In line with the Markinson Decision the Planning Department charges 10p per A4 copy for the cost of photocopying.

The Planning Department will charge for the cost of disbursements only, where the estimated cost of complying with the access request is less than £450.00

Where the cost of complying with a request exceeds the limit of £450.00, the Planning Department may make a charge for the full costs of complying with the request. This brings the charging regime in line with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and DEFRA guidance.

Furthermore, as referred to in the Markinson Decision, the DEFRA Code of Practice suggests that where a public authority makes environmental information available on a commercial basis it may still be able to levy a market based charge.

As a consequence the Planning Department reserves the right to consider charging an appropriate fee where applicable in this circumstance.

In addition you should be aware that most of the information that we provide in response to Freedom of Information Act 2000 or Environmental Information Regulations requests will be subject to Copyright Protection. In most cases the copyright will be owned by Dudley MBC. The copyright in other information may be owned by another person or organisation, as indicated on the information itself.

You are free to use any information supplied for your own non-commercial research or private study purposes. The information may also be used for any other purpose allowed by a limitation or exception in copyright law, such as news reporting. However, any other type of re-use, for example by publishing the information in analogue or digital form, including on the internet, or for commercial gain will require the permission of the copyright owner.

You should note that Under Regulation 15 (2) the PSI Regulations, public sector organisations can charge sums for re-use that should not exceed:

  • the cost of collection, production, reproduction and dissemination of information; and

  • a reasonable return on investment.

The Planning Department reserves the right to charge in accordance with these regulations where appropriate.

In summary the Planning Department’s charging structure can be stated as follows:

  1. Request for information where estimated cost is less than £450.00 and information required for own use:

    Cost = Disbursements e.g. 10 pence for A4 photocopies.

  2. Request for information where estimated cost is more than £450.00 and information required for own use:

    Cost = Disbursements e.g. 10 pence for A4 photocopies plus charge for the cost of complying with the request (following criteria specified in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004.

  3. Request for information where estimated cost is less than £450.00 and information required for re-use (e.g. commercial gain)

    Cost = Disbursements e.g. 10 pence for A4 photocopies. Then, following an accepted application by the requestor for re-use, charges for:

    1) the cost of collection, production, reproduction and dissemination of information where not previously charged; and
    2) reasonable return on investment or market based charge where appropriate.

  4. Request for information where estimated cost is more than £450.00 and information required for re-use (e.g. commercial gain)

    Cost = Disbursements e.g. 10 pence for A4 photocopies plus charge for the cost of complying with the request (following criteria specified in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004. Then, following an accepted application by the requester for re-use, charges for:

    1) the cost of collection, production, reproduction and dissemination of information where not previously charged; and
    2) reasonable return on investment or market based charge where appropriate.

 

Section 8 (4) enables the authority to require advance payment before information is released.

The request for information will remain active for 60 working days from the date of notification of a charge. If no payment is received during this time the request lapses but the applicant may make a new application at any time. When a fee payment is received the local authority will release the information promptly and within the appropriate time limit.

How to make an EIR Request

  • Format of requests

    Applicants do not need to mention the Regulations for their request to qualify as an EIR request. Requests can be made verbally or in writing.

  • Information covered by the regulations
    The regulations apply to information held in written, visual, aural or database form.

  • Who can apply
    Anyone, anywhere.

  • Time frames
    20 working days, which can be extended to 40 for complex or voluminous requests.

  • Charging
    Please see above.

  • Vexatious requests
    Manifestly unreasonable requests may be refused (i.e. too large a burden on resources).

  • Aggregated requests
    Many requests from the same individual or groups such as campaign groups may be covered by the "manifestly unreasonable" exception.

  • Advice and assistance
    A duty to provide advice and assistance to requesters, insofar as it is reasonable to do so.

  • Transferring requests
    If the authority believes the information is held by another authority, the request should be transferred if appropriate and if the applicant wouldn’t have any grounds to object to the transfer. Applicant to be informed, and the clock starts again once the request is transferred.

  • Consulting third parties
    If disclosure of information affects the interests of a third party, they should be consulted if deemed appropriate.

  • Duty to confirm or deny
    EIR only allows a public authority to "neither confirm nor deny" whether it holds information when that authority is refusing to disclose information on the grounds of international relations, defence, national security, or public safety.

  • What is meant by holding information
    Under the EIR the public authority holds information if the information is in the authority's possession and has been produced or received by the authority, or if it is held by another person on behalf of the authority.

  • Responding to requests
    Refusals must be given in writing, and must state the reason for refusal. Reference must be made to complaint procedures.

  • Form and format
    The requester is entitled to receive information in a format specified by them when it is reasonable to do so. For example, a requester may have a preference for either a paper or electronic copy of the information.

  • Exceptions to providing information
    There are certain provisions which allow public authorities to withhold information. (The Council’s Information Compliance Manager must be involved in any decision to apply an exception).

  • The public interest test
    All exceptions under EIR are subject to the public interest test.

  • Appeals and complaints
    There are three appeals procedures under EIR –

    1. Internal Review by the public authority (40 working day time limit)

    2. Appeal to the Information Commissioner

    3. Appeal to the Information Tribunal

    Public Authorities should inform requesters of their rights of appeal and should provide contact details for both the internal review procedure and appeals to the Information Commissioner.

  • Making information available
    The EIR encourage public authorities to proactively make information available to the general public. Electronic publication and use of websites is encouraged as is any form of publication which promotes accessibility to information.

Contact Details

  • Name Freedom of Information Officer
  • Address Dudley MBC, The Directorate of Finance, ICT and Procurement, Dudley MBC, Dudley, West Midlands, DY1 1HF
  • Telephone 0300 555 2345