The Environmental Information Regulations 2004
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 came into force on the 1st January 2005. They provide the public with the right of access to a wide range of environmental information held by the council.
What is Environmental Information?
The definition of environmental information is very wide and it includes written, electronic, visual or audio information on:
- The state of the elements of the environment; such as air and atmosphere, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites, biological diversity and its components, including genetically modified organisms.
- Factors, affecting the environment; such as substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste, including radioactive waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment.
- Measures (including administrative measures) and activities affecting or designed to protect the environment; such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements.
- Reports on the implementation of environmental legislation.
- Cost-benefit and other economic analyses and assumptions used within the framework of environmental measures and activities.
- The state of human health and safety, including the contamination of the food chain, conditions of human life, cultural sites and built structures in as much as they are or may be affected by the state of the environment, or factors or measures affecting the environment.
This definition of environmental information is significantly wider than that of the preceding 1992 regulations, and there is no geographical restriction.
You can access the full regulations here Environmental Information Regulations 2004
A Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs guide to the regulations is available here: Guide to EIR
Guidance from the Information Commissioner is available here:
Information Commissioner EIR Guidance
If the information you require is not available under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 you can request the information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, see: Milton Keynes Council FOIA Guidance
Relationship between the Environmental Information Regulations and the Freedom of Information Act
Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), public authorities do not need to comply with a request for information where they are obliged to make the information available under the Regulations, or would be obliged to if an Exception under the Regulations did not apply.
The following are some of the main differences between the EIR and the FOIA:
- Environmental Information requests do not need to be in writing, whereas FOIA requests do.
- Under FOIA a public authority does not hold information if it is holding the information solely on behalf of someone else. However under the Regulations, it holds Environmental Information that is in its possession, even where it is holding the information on someone else's behalf.
- Under the 2004 Regulations, the time limit for complying with a request has been reduced from 2 months under the 1992 Regulations to 20 working days. However this can be extended to 40 working days where the request is complex or voluminous.
- Under FOIA the time for responding can only be extended beyond 20 working days where the public interest test relating to a qualified exemption is being considered, although the extension can be for a period that is reasonable in the circumstances.
- Under FOIA, the fees, which can be charged for dealing with a request, are prescribed by the Fees Regulations. If complying with a request for information would exceed the limit, a public authority can refuse the request. If however it elects to supply the information, it can charge all of the prescribed costs.
- Under the Regulations, a public authority can charge a reasonable fee for complying with a request; therefore the full cost of providing the information can be recovered. However unlike FOIA, all requests under the Regulations must be complied with, regardless of the cost.
- The Regulations do not however allow the council to make a charge for allowing an applicant to access a public register or list of Environmental Information held by the council or to examine the information at a place the council makes the information available for examination e.g. its offices, a library etc.
See also: Boundaries between EIR and FOIA
Although there is a presumption in favour of disclosure there are exceptions to the duty to disclose information. The EIR 2004 contains the full details of the exceptions, however, here is a list of reasons why we may not be able to disclose the requested information:
Time limits for providing Environmental Information
- It contains personal data.
- The request is manifestly unreasonable.
- The request is formulated in too general a manner and a more specific request has not been submitted although further advice has been received from an officer.
- The material is still in the course of being completed.
- Internal communications.
- International relations, defence, national security or public safety.
- The course of justice, the ability of a person to receive a fair trial or the ability of a public authority to conduct an inquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature.
- Intellectual property rights.
- The confidentiality of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is protected by law to protect legitimate economic interest.
- The interests of the persons who provided the information could be adversely affected where that person was not legally obliged to provide the information or had not consented to its disclosure.
- The disclosure of the information could adversely effect the protection of the environment to which the information relates.
- In all circumstances the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
The regulations require the requested information to be made available within 20 workings days, however, this can be extended to 40 working days if the complexity and volume of the information requires it.
Charges for information
Where the information requested is available in written or electronic form normally no charge will be made for supplying the information other than the cost of any copying and reproduction of materials.
Charges for information falling outside the scope of the EIR
If the request for information requires us to carry out research/investigation and the preparation of new documents (either written or electronic) such a request will normally be considered to fall outside the scope of the EIR and will attract a charge (currently £40 per hour for domestic enquiries and £80 per hour for commercial enquiries).
Such requests include requests for researching information in connection with property transactions where we will produce a site-specific document detailing all potential environmental concerns relating to the site and its surroundings.
How to make a request
Requests for information can be made by telephone, email, letter or fax. To make a request for Environmental Information or to obtain further advice please contact the Environmental Services Helpline.
Fax: 01908 529158
Tel: 01908 252398
Milton Keynes Council
One Saxon Gate East
Complaint Procedure & Appeals
Under the Environmental Information Regulations, an applicant has 40 working days from the date it believes a public authority has failed to deal with a request, to make written representations to the authority. The authority must respond to the complaint within 40 working days. Under the FOIA, there are no prescribed time limits within which an applicant can make a complaint and a public authority can set its own reasonable target times.
Milton Keynes Councilís policy is to be as open as possible and whenever possible to supply information that is requested, but we can withhold information covered by exemptions in the regulations. If we are not able to provide the information requested we will write to you giving you our reasons. If you are not satisfied with the reasons you have the right to appeal. You may also appeal if you believe the charge we have made to supply the information is unfair or believe there has been an excessive delay, or the information has not been supplied as you requested.
Your complaint will be dealt with under stage 3 of the Council's formal complaint procedure
If the outcome of the complaint procedure is not to your satisfaction you have the right to apply to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner is the independent official appointed by the Crown to oversee the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
More information about the Information Commissioner and how to complain can be obtained on the Information Commissionerís web site
or write direct to:
Information Commissioner's Office
Fax: 01625 524 510