The exceptions under which environmental information may be withheld are listed under Regulation 12 sections (4) and (5). All the exceptions are subject to the Public Interest Test. A Public Interest test is where the body who holds the information decides whether it would be against the general public interest to release such information or not. The Council must justify its decision and explain why it is not in the public interest if it chooses not to release information.
A request for information can be refused (or part of the information withheld) if:
- Information is not held (the request may be transferred)
- The request is manifestly unreasonable
- The request is too general (after fulfilling duty to advise and assist)
- The request is for unfinished documents or data (in which case estimated time for completion must be given)
- The request is for internal communications
A public authority may also refuse to disclose information or withhold part of it in order to protect the following:
- Confidentiality of proceedings
- International relations / public security / defence
- The course of justice and right to fair trial
- Commercial confidentiality
- Intellectual property rights
- Personal / voluntary data
- Environmental protection
If information relates to emissions, a public authority cannot refuse to disclose it on grounds of confidentiality of proceedings, commercial confidentiality, personal/ voluntary data or environmental protection.
If a request is refused in accordance with an exception, the public authority must notify the requestor which exception has been claimed and why that exception applies.
Public Authorities should also specify the public interest factors (for and against disclosure) that they have taken into account before reaching the decision.