Environmental Information Regulations
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 give the public the right to environmental information. The regulations promote the publication of as much environmental information as possible in order to promote public participation in environmental decision making.
Environmental information includes information about air, water, soil, land, flora & fauna, energy, noise, waste and emissions.
It also concerns information which may not appear to be environmental but in fact has clear links to the environment. These are:
any decisions, measures and activities affecting or likely to affect the above
finance and cost benefit analysis relating to these would also be classed as environmental information
certain information about human health and the food chain
built structures and cultural sites
As you can see, the NHS must provide information pertaining to human health.
Who can make a request?
Anyone can make a request from any public authority such as the NHS. Requests can be in any format either written or oral.
Who can you request information from?
Environmental information requests can be made to any public authority, whether this be central or local governmant bodies carrying out public functions on behalf of that authority such as water companies and / or waste disposal companies.
There is a presumption under the Regulations that environmental information must be released, unless there are strong public interest considerations to justify withholding the information. Regulation 12 of the Environmantal Information Regulations lays down the exceptions under which a public authority can withhold information. For example, the information can be refused if:
the informaton is not held
the request is manifestly unreasonable
the request is too general
the request is for unfinished documents / data
the request is for internal communications
if releasing information would damage commercial interests, international relations, defence, national security, affect the course of justice and the ability of someone to receive a fair trial and if it affects the public authority's ability to undertake its business.
If information relates to emissions the authority cannot refuse information on the grounds of confidentiality of proceedings, commercial confidentiality, personal / voluntary data or environmental protection.
The public interest test
All information under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIRs) is subject to the public interest test. This test ensures that authorities consider whether it serves the interest of the public to disclose or withhold the information.
You can contact the following organisations for more information:
Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has a unit dedicated to ofering policy advice and guidance relating to the Environmental Information Regulations. Please click here.
Information Commissioner's Office - please click here