Information Commissioner's Office
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New guide explains the Environmental Information Regulations

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has recently published a new plain English Guide to the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) to help public authorities better understand how to apply them.

The EIR provide the public with a right of access to environmental information held by public authorities, which would not be considered for disclosure under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. The types of information people can request includes information relating to land development, air quality, energy production and waste management.

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, said:

“While many public authorities will be used to responding to Freedom of Information requests, we regularly find that requests for environmental information have not been correctly identified as falling under the Environmental Information Regulations.

“Last year we dealt with 452 complaints under these regulations, many of them concerning applications which had been incorrectly treated as an FOI request. This guide will help public authorities to identify EIR requests at an early stage and to respond correctly.”

While public authorities have 20 working days to respond to EIR and FOI requests, there are some important differences between the two regimes. For example, EIR requests can be made verbally and the requester doesn’t need to provide their real name. The EIR also prevents statutory bars from applying, meaning that requests cannot be refused due to the prohibitions on disclosure within other legislation. 

The guide displays the Clear English Standard logo. Martin Cutts, research director of Plain Language Commission, which runs the Clear English Standard scheme, said:

"This guide uses clear language and a logical structure to help public bodies comply with the rules. This should save them time and money while enabling them to serve their communities better." 

The Guide to Environmental Information Regulations and additional new detailed guidance is available on the ICO website.

Notes to Editors

1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.
 
2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

3. The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) provide access to environmental information held by public authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Environmental information held by Scottish public authorities is covered by the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004. The ICO’s policy on enforcing public access to official information and the powers at its disposal are set out here.

4. The ICO is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and produces a monthly e-newsletter. Our press office page provides more information for journalists.

5. For more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070.


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