These Regulations create a self standing system of giving public access to environmental information held by a range of bodies including the council. They are similar in structure to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOI) in that in general if someone requests environmental information which we hold then unless an "exception" applies (these are similar to FOI exemptions) they are entitled to be given the information within 20 working days. As with FOI a fee may be charged and the enforcement machinery is identical. There is also a duty to advise and assist applicants as is the case with FOI.
Environmental information is any information whether in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form on:
a) the state of the elements of the environment, such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites including wetlands, coastal and marine areas, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms, and the interaction among these elements;
b) factors, such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, including radioactive waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment, affecting or likely to affect the elements of the environment referred to in (a);
c) measures (including administrative measures), such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities affecting or likely to affect the elements and factors referred to in (a) and (b) as well as measures or activities designed to protect those elements;
d) reports on the implementation of environmental legislation;
e) costs-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used within the framework of the measures and activities referred to in (c); and
f) the state of human health and safety, including the contamination of the food chain, where relevant, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures inasmuch as they are or may be affected by the state of the elements of the environment referred to in (a) or, through those elements, by any of the matters referred to in (b) and (c).
It can be seen that this is a very wide definition that much information held by us will fall into the above categories, from habitat studies through biodiversity action plans down to air quality monitoring on the streets or in offices.
Technically all information covered by the Environmental Information Regulations is exempt from FOI requests but in practice this simply means that the request must be processed under the Regulations rather than under the Act. The distinction only has practical significance in relation to operational timescales and the discretionary fee charging system.
Requestors should use the same procedures as for FOI, as detailed in Making a Freedom of Information Request. However it would be helpful if they made it clear that they wish their request to be dealt with under EIR.
The rules on making a request under the EIRs are slightly different from those on making a request under FOI. For EIR purposes a request does not have to be in a permanent form and so unrecorded telephone calls or face to face verbal requests will be sufficient to count as a request under the Regulations. There is no specific requirement for the applicant to give their name and address, although clearly we will be unable to comply with the request if we do not have some method of getting the information requested to the applicant.
The applicant may request that the information be provided in a particular format and unless it is reasonable to make it available in some other format or it is already publicly available and easily accessible in another format, any such request must be complied with. As with FOI if a request is too general it is permissible (and mandatory under EIR) to seek further particulars from the applicant.
View our EIR Fees and Charging