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Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) FAQs

What is Environmental Information?

The Environmental Information Regulations provides access to information on the following:

  • The state of the elements of the environment in which we live (such as air, water, soil, land, landscapes, natural sites, flora and fauna including cattle, crops, wildlife and biological diversity) and the interaction between them
  • Anything relating to energy, noise, radiation, waste or radioactive waste
  • The state of human health and safety, conditions of human life, the food chain, cultural and built structures for example roads, canals, phone masts, tunnels, railway lines, archaeological sites, gardening sites etc.
  • The measures employed (i.e. policies/procedures/reports/legislation) to manage the environment

Who does the EIR affect?

The EIR essentially applies to the following public bodies:

  • Central government
  • Local authorities
  • Health and education establishments
  • Police forces and prison services
  • Advisory groups, commissions and agencies

What Environmental Information is available from South Tyneside Council?

South Tyneside's Environmental Health Section deals with an array of Environmental issues. Environmental information is available in the following areas:

  • Environmental health
  • Environmental food and rural affairs
  • Health and safety
  • Food safety
  • Pest control
  • Dog warden control
  • Pollution control
  • Refuse collection
  • Waste management
  • Recycling programmes
  • Energy efficiency

Who can make a request?

Anyone, regardless of age, nationality or geographical location can make a request for environmental information.

Do I need to confirm why I'm making the request?

No. You do not have to justify your reasons for your request.

What are my rights under the EIR?

Under EIR we are required to:

  • Advise you of your rights
  • Offer guidance and support to assist you with your application
  • Advise you of where the information is held and how it can be accessed
  • Regularly update you on progress with your request
  • Notify you of any charges, where applicable
  • Respond to your EIR request(s) within 20 working days

How long does an authority have to respond to EIR requests?

All EIR requests must be responded to in writing within 20 working days, unless there are exceptional circumstances where the information requested has been of a complex or voluminious nature. In cases where the response period has had to be extended by a further 20 workings days, we will notify you of the delay and provide you with an estimated date of when the requested is expected to be complete.

If your initial request is unclear or ambiguous we will contact you for further information and advise you that the 20 working period has been suspended and will not recommence until we receive clearer instructions.

Can environmental information be withheld?

Regulation 12 of the Environmental Regulations does provide local authorities with exceptions to withhold information. These exceptions are not mandatory and are subject to a public interest test.

What is the public interest test?

The public interest test involves the council deciding whether it is in the interest of the council to disclose or withhold the environment information
being requested.

A typical example of this may include the council withholding information relating to the nesting location of rare bird species for fear that disclosure may threaten the existence of the bird species.

What sort of information is covered by the EIR exceptions?

An EIR request may be refused or part refused for a number of reasons. For example:

  • The request may be considered manifestly unreasonable
  • The request may be too general
  • The information requested may be incomplete/part complete or not available
  • The request may adversely affect intellectual property or the commercial confidentiality interests of the Council or a supplier.
  • Other exceptions include information that relates to international relations, defence, public security, defence, personal data/voluntary data etc.

Do I have to pay a fee for environmental information?

Under EIR the council can make no charges for access to the following:

  • Public registers
  • Environmental information lists
  • On site inspections

However, for all other situations a charge may be applied but this is at the discretion of the council and will be advised to you accordingly. Postage and photocopying charges may also be requested.

If a charge is required how long do I have to pay for it?

If a fee is required a fees notice will be sent to you confirming the necessary charges. All charges must be paid within 60 working days of you receiving the notice, otherwise the request will be automatically cancelled.

What format is the information available in?

We may be able to supply the information to you in another format so long as this is reasonably practicable. For e.g. Braille, large type or another language but this must be clearly communicated in your request and may incur an additional charge. All charges are at the discretion of the service manager and will be advised to you accordingly.

How many requests can I make?

The EIR does not specifically limit the number of requests that you can make but the authority does have the right to refuse vexatious or repeated requests.

Does South Tyneside Council have a duty to disclose only environmental information it produces?

No. Under the EIR regulations any environmental information that South Tyneside Council holds can be accessed regardless of who produced it or owns it.

What happens if South Tyneside does not hold the information requested?

If South Tyneside Council does not hold the information you requested but believes another local authority does we will transfer the requested to the appropriate public body who will advise you accordingly.

If South Tyneside Council cannot respond to your request and has exhausted all its potential possibilities to obtain the information we will simply advise you that we do not hold the information.

What do I do if my environmental request is refused?

If your request is refused you can appeal against this decision by asking for an internal review. An independent team of senior staff who were not involved in the first review, will assess your case. All internal reviews must be requested within 40 working days of you receiving your refusal notice. If this situation arises, we have 20 workings days to acknowledge your request and confirm a final decision.

What happens if the environmental request is refused at the internal review stage?

If you are unhappy with the decision of the internal review, you can write to the Information Commissioner to ask for an independent review of your case. The ICO can be contacted at the following address:

EIR / FOI Complaints
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
General enquiries:
Phone: 01625 545 745
Fax: 01625 525 510

Please be aware that the Information Commissioner will only consider applications that have exhausted the council's internal review/complaints procedures.

What does the Information Commissioner do once a complaint has been made?

The Information Commissioner has 28 days to review your appeal and notify you of his decision.

Please be aware that the Information Commissioner will only consider applications that have exhausted the council's internal review/complaints procedures.

What can I do if I disagree with the decision of the Information Commissioner?

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the ICO's decision you can write to the Information Tribunal to ask for independent review of your request.

The Information Tribunal's contact details are as follows:

Information Tribunal
Amhem House Support Centre
PO BOX 6987
Leicestershire, LE1 6ZX

Tel. No. 0845 600 0877

Please note any further action would be addressed through the High Court, the Court of Appeal or House of Lords.

Can I reuse the information provided?

The supply of documents under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 is still protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998.

Applicants do not have an automatic right to re-use the information for commercial gain (e.g. by making multiple copies, publishing and issuing copies to the public) but are able to use the information for purposes of research and non commercial purposes, (private study, criticism, review and news reporting).

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