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The Environmental Information Regulations

The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) came into force in January 2005. They provide the public with a right of access to a wide range of environmental information held by public authorities.  

What is Environmental Information?

The following areas are included:

  • Information relating to the state of land, including water, air and soil,
  • Information about emissions and discharges, noise, energy, radiation, and waste,
  • Activities such as policies, plans, and agreements affecting or likely to affect the state of the environment,
  • The state of human health and safety and contamination of the food chain,
  • Cultural and historic sites and built structures and the extent to which they may be affected by the state of the environment.

 

Key Provisions

  • Requests do not have to be in writing. They can be verbal.
  • Requests can be made by organisations or individuals.
  • Response time is 20 working days (which can be extended up to 40 working days where a request is complex or voluminous).
  • A reasonable fee can be charged (unless access is being provided to a public register or if the information is examined at the offices of the public authority).
  • Exemptions from disclosure are available but in each case (unlike the FOIA), only if the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.
  • Information relating to emissions is subject to more limited exemptions from disclosure.
  • Information which has the benefit of legal professional privilege may fall within one of the exemptions, but each case needs to be considered on its merit, (there is no specific exemption unlike the FOIA).
  • Lack of third party consent does not necessarily prevent disclosure.
  • There is a presumption in favour of disclosure.
  • The disclosure obligation extends to information held by third parties on your behalf (e.g. waste contractors) or by you on behalf of third parties.

 

Exemptions

The Fire Authority  may refuse to disclose information when:

  • The information is not held by the Fire Authority,
  • The Fire Authority cannot ascertain the nature of the request,
  • The request is 'manifestly unreasonable',
  • The information is 'unfinished or in the course of being completed'.  

 

Certain exceptions require proof of the harm that would be caused by release of the information. Information can, for example, be withheld if release would adversely affect: 

  • Defence, international relations, national security, or public safety,
  • The course of justice, or the confidentiality of proceedings,
  • Intellectual property rights,
  • Interests of the supplier of the information, where supply was voluntary,
  • Commercial confidentiality,
  • The protection of the environment.

 

How long does the Fire Authority  have to deal with a request?

We must respond as soon as possible or within 20 working days, unless the information requested is complex and voluminous. In such cases, the period can be extended to 40 working days. The 20 working day clock starts the day after we receive the request, or the day after we receive more details if the request is too general. If the time period is extended to 40 working days, we must inform the requester in writing giving the reason for the extended period and a date when they can expect to receive the information. 

Will information be chargeable?

We may charge a reasonable fee for disclosing information, however we cannot charge an applicant to inspect the information. Public registers and lists such as the Register of Radioactive Substances, Contaminated Land Register etc are already available free of charge. 

How to make a Request for Information

Anyone can make a request for information. Requests can be made verbally or in writing.

If you would like to make an Environmental Information request you can do this in a number of ways: 

  • The Publication Scheme has been designed to let you know what information and publications are currently available from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority.  Where information is available on the website, a hyperlink will direct you to the correct page. 
  •  Where no link is available, please make an Environmental Information Request by post or using our online request form.

 

By Post

You may make a request by letter, as long as you include your name and an address for reply.

It will help us if you mark your correspondence clearly 'Environmental Information Request' and send it to the:

Records Management Officer
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service Headquarters
Nissan Way
Washington
Sunderland
Tyne and Wear
SR5 3QY

Online

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Freedom of Information Request