Public Access to Information

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What Types of Information are Affected:

Although the EIRs primarily apply to the public sector there are also incidences where the private sector can be affected. Any information provided to regulators or consultees governed by the regulations could be passed on to the public if requested. The definition of environmental information is very broad and covers information which relates to air, water, land, natural sites, flora and fauna (including crops, genetically modified organisms, livestock and biodiversity), built environment, and health.

There is no absolute requirement for public authorities to notify where they are considering releasing information. Where information may be sensitive the authority should consult the originator of the information however the final decision rests with the public authority.

Information which can be Exempted:

The FOI Act sets out an exemption from the right to request information passed to the public authority in confidence, however this cannot be applied to information generated by the public authority themselves, e.g. any internal records. Additionally, information marked ‘confidential’ or containing confidentiality clauses, e.g. in contracts, will no longer be sufficient.

The EIR create a strong presumption in favour of openness, however a public authority can refuse to disclose environmental information where:

  • An exception to disclosure applies
  • The public interest in maintaining exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing information
  • They do not hold the information when the applicant’s request if received
  • The request for information is completely unreasonable
  • The request for information is too general
  • The request relates to material which is unfinished or in the course of being completed
  • The request involves the disclosure of internal communications

A public authority can also refuse to disclose environmental information if the disclosure would adversely affect:

  • International relations, defence, national security or public safety
  • The course of justice
  • Intellectual property rights
  • The confidentiality of the proceedings of any public authority
  • The protection of the environment
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 None at present.
 None at present.