Environmental Information Regulations

April 2009

Part 6 – Environmental Information Regulations

81.95  Right of access

The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) came into force on 1 January 2005 implementing the EU Council Directive 2003/4 on Public Access to Environmental Information. [note 1]

In relation to the public right of access to environmental information the UK is subject to international and EU law. Instead of drafting the FOIA to duplicate the existing international and EU law, which only apply to environmental information, the government approach was to create separate legal regimes of the FOIA and EIR.

The right of access to information applies not only to public authorities (as defined within the Freedom of Information Act) but also to any other body or person that is under the control of a government department, public authority or any other body or person that carries out functions of public administration; and,

  1. has public responsibilities relating to the environment;
  2. exercises functions of a public nature  relating to the environment; or
  3. provides public services relating to the environment.

International Nuclear Services Ltd and Capital for Development are examples of private limited companies that are covered by the EIR.


81.96  What is covered by EIR

Environmental information covers information on the state of the environment, such as:

  • air, water, soil, land, flora and fauna (including human beings), diversity, genetically modified organisms,
  • information on emissions and discharges, noise, energy, radiation, waste and other such substances,
  • measures and activities such as policies, plans and agreements,
  • reports, cost benefit and economic analyses,
  • the state of human health and safety, contamination of the food chain,
  • cultural sites and built structures (as they may be affected by environmental factors). 


81.97  Official receiver and the EIR

(Amended December 2010)

The only situation where the official receiver may need to consider the EIR is if he/she receives a request for environmental information related to an insolvent estate which he/she was dealing or related to policies and practices for which their office is responsible.  In such cases, the official receiver should acknowledge the request and consult Technical Section before giving a detailed reply. Requests received generally by The Service will be dealt with by the Property Services Procurement team after being logged and forwarded by Technical Section.

All requests received by any part of The Service should be copied to The Service’s Compliance Manager (Jim Digby) at FOI@insolvency.gsi.gov.uk as part of The Service’s policy.


81.98  Mutual exclusivity

In any request for information that comprises environmental information the rules set out in the EIR must be applied. If within the request there is a request for non-environmental information, the rules within the FOIA will apply to that information. It must never be assumed that the response to any particular request will be the same if it were treated under either regime.

Any request for environmental information is exempted from the provisions of FOIA by section 39 and must be dealt with under EIR instead.


81.99  Comparison between FOIA and EIR

Four significant differences between the FOIA and the EIR are:

  • That the obligations to disclose information apply to significantly more types of  organisation e.g. there are a number of organisations that are not subject to FOIA, but who have duties of disclosure under EIR. There is no impact on The Service in this respect, who are subject to both regimes.
  • The EIR contains ‘exceptions’ to the duty to disclose, rather than the exemptions found within the FOIA In general terms the exceptions that may be engaged under EIR are more narrowly drawn and it is necessary to look closely at the detailed formulation when applying the EIR exceptions.
  • Requests under the EIR can be made verbally.
  • Under EIR the obligation to make information available applies notwithstanding any enactment or rule of law that would otherwise prevent disclosure. This is the opposite of the FOIA where any other legislation that prevents disclosure makes the information exempt under FOIA.

While noting the differences outlined above there are a number of similarities between the FOIA and the EIR. These include the time period for dealing with requests and the jurisdiction relating to disputes. Both are dealt with by referral to the IC and, if necessary, the Information Tribunal.


81.100  Requests for information

Two important points must be considered when a request for information is received. A request does not need to quote either the FOIA or the EIR (or any other legislation) in order to be dealt with under the EIR regime where the information relates to environmental information. Given the broader access rights under EIR, and the narrower interpretation of the exceptions that can be applied, it is important to identify a request that is wholly, or partly related to environmental information, and to deal with that request (or the part of that request) by reference to the correct legislation.

Detailed information about a persons rights when making requests under EIR can be viewed HERE.

Secondly, requests for environmental information may be made by telephone or verbally and there is no requirement as with the FOIA to put a request in writing. A detailed note of any verbal request must be obtained in order to ensure that it is dealt with in accordance with the legislation. A proforma log sheet is available in Annex C to ensure all the relevant details are recorded when dealing with verbal requests. Staff who may deal with requests that could include environmental information should consider printing the form for use when handling telephone requests.


81.101  Exceptions to disclosure

Although the EIR creates a strong presumption in favour of openness, Regulation 12 does provide public authorities with some grounds for refusing to disclose environmental information. The exceptions are not mandatory and a public authority may choose to release the information anyway. All the exceptions in the EIR are subject to the public interest test.

The public interest test means that even though information may be covered by an exception, public authorities must still disclose unless the public interest positively favours the exception in the particular case. [note 2]

Regulation 12 also provides exceptions where personal information may be disclosed, and reference must be made to the DPA  in such cases. [note 3]


81.102  Refusal Notices under EIR

The Regulations provide that if a request for environmental information is refused by a public authority under regulations 12(1) (public interest) or 13(1) (personal information), the refusal shall be made in writing and comply with the following provisions of this regulation.  [note 4]

The refusal shall be made as soon as possible and no later than 20 working days after the date of receipt of the request.

The refusal shall specify the reasons not to disclose the information requested, including:

  1. any exception relied on under regulations 12(4), 12(5) or 13; and
  2. the matters the public authority considered in reaching its decision with respect to the public interest under regulation 12(1)(b) or, where these apply, regulations 13(2)(a)(ii) or 13(3).

If the exception in regulation 12(4)(d) is specified in the refusal, the authority shall also specify, if known to the public authority, the name of any other public authority preparing the information and the estimated time in which the information will be finished or completed.

The refusal shall inform the applicant-

  1. that he may make representations to the public authority under regulation 11; and
  2. of the enforcement and appeal provisions of the Act applied by regulation 18.


81.103  Transfer of requests

When The Service receives a request for environmental information which it does not hold but where it believes that the information requested may be held by another public authority, The Service is required to either transfer the request to the other public authority, or to provide the applicant with the contact details of that other public authority.


81.104  EIR Publication Scheme

There is a requirement under EIR for public authorities to make information available on-line. In particular Regulation 4 states that as a minimum The Service must:

  • progressively make environmental information available to the public;
  • publish this information on the internet, in most cases; and,
  • take reasonable steps to organise its environmental information to make it easier to access and publish.

The Service publishes information on environmental issues within the FOIA publication scheme and via its internet pages.

Detailed guidance from the ICO regarding how information should be made available, publication schemes, organising information for disclosure and charging for information, can be viewed HERE.


[Back to Part 5 – Publication Scheme]