Making a request
If you wish to send in a letter, please address it to:
The FOI Team
Performance and Partnerships
Mid Sussex District Council
Environmental Information Regulations establish an access regime which allows people to request environmental information from public authorities and those bodies carrying out a public function.
Any request for information held by/on behalf of a public authority or a body carrying out a public function is technically an FOI request in the first instance. Section 39 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) then exempts environmental information from being dealt with under the FOI Act and provides it should be dealt with under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
If it is determined that part/all of the information requested is personal information, where the applicant is the subject of the information, access to that information will be dealt with under the Data Protection Act 1998.
In effect the three pieces of legislation work together, the Environmental Information Regulations enabling access to environmental information, the Data Protection Act 1998 enabling access to personal information of which the applicant is the subject, and the Freedom of Information Act enabling access to all other information.
- A request can be verbal or written, electronic or hardcopy.
- A request must usually be answered within 20 working days of receipt of the request, however this time period can be extended to 40 working days if the request is complex and voluminous.
- If a public authority receives a request which they believe is too general, the authority will contact the applicant as soon as possible to try to determine specifically what information it is that they would like.
- When making a request for information an applicant may state a preference as to the form/format in which they would like the information to be provided e.g. hardcopy/electronic etc
- Public authorities may charge a reasonable fee for disclosing information, however an authority cannot charge an applicant to inspect the information at their offices.
- Sometimes, there is information for which there would be adverse consequences should it be released, for example the nesting location of a rare bird species. To prevent such an event happening, the EIRs contain a number of exceptions which would allow public authorities to withhold that information.
- If a public authority refuses to disclose all/part of the information requested, that authority must state, in writing, what exception the information falls under and justify their 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 the authority itself then, if they remain dissatisfied, to the Information Commissioner's Office.
What is Environmental Information?
The definition of environmental information is very broad and includes information on:
- the state of elements of the environment (such as air, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites, flora and fauna, including cattle, crops, GMO's, wildlife and biological diversity) and interaction between them,
- the state of human health and safety, conditions of human life, the food chain, cultural sites and built structures in as much as they are or may be affected by the state of the elements of the environment and interaction between them,
- substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste affecting or likely to affect the state of the elements of the environment and interaction between them,
- measures (including administrative measures, policies, legislation, plans, programmes and environmental agreements) and activities affecting or likely to affect, or intended to protect the state of elements of the environment and the interaction between them,
- emissions discharges and other releases into the environment,
- cost benefit and other economic analysis used in environmental decision making.