The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) came into force on 1 January 2005 and enables members of the public to have the right to access environmental information held by public authorities. Any individual can request environmental information and the request does not have to be in writing; it could be email, telephone or in person.
The Information Commissioner's Office has produced a list of environmental information that, where available, can be obtained upon request, and includes:
- the state of the elements of the environment, such as air, water, soil, land and fauna (including human beings)
- emissions and discharges, noise, energy, radiation, waste and other such substances
- measures and activities such as policies, plans and agreements affecting or likely to affect the state of the elements of the environment
- reports, cost-benefit and economic analyses
- the state of human health and safety, contamination of the food chain
- cultural sites and built structures (to the extent they may be affected by the state of the elements of the environment)
Requests for information will be dealt with promptly and no later than 21 days after they are made. Where the authority must refuse a request (under Regulation 12 public authorities are provided with some grounds for refusing to disclose environmental information), it will provide details of the reason(s) to the applicant. Where information is refused, applicants have the right to request a review of the decision and subsequently a right to appeal to the Information Commissioner's Office.
How much will an enquiry cost?
Under EIR, local authorities are not permitted to charge for access to public registers, lists of environmental information or examination of environmental information. However, where enquiries about contaminated land are made as part of the property conveyancing process, a charge of £30 per hour is made. This charge reflects the sometimes onerous and time-consuming task of answering such enquiries.
Further information can be obtained from the Environmental Protection Team:
Chesterfield Borough Council
Tel: 01246 345 345 (main switchboard)
Fax: 01246 345 760