All citizens have a right to know what Gateshead council is doing, and how we are doing it. You already have rights of access to information the Council produces under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Access to Local Authority Records 1972.
The Environmental Information Regulations have been in force since 1992, although they have recently been updated to tie in with the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
What do environmental information regulations cover?
Any information which is about the following:
- The state of elements of the environment i.e air water etc;
- The state of human health and safety, conditions of human life, the food chain;
- Substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste affecting or likely to affect the state of the elements of environment and the interaction between them;
- Administrative measures, policies, legislation, plans, programmes and environmental agreements;
- Emissions discharges and other releases into the environment;
- Cost benefit and other economic analysis used in environmental decision making.
What rights do the Environmental information regulations give me?
You have the right to see, or have a copy of, most environmental information held by or on behalf of the council.
But you should note that:
- Some types of information do not have to be released;
- You may have to pay a fee.
How do I make a request?
Requests can be made orally over the telephone, face to face or in writing. There is no prescribed form. You will need to include your name, address and telephone number.
We must reply to you within 20 working days, saying whether or not we have the information you want. If we do and there are no exemptions, which prevent disclosure, we must supply you with a copy of it, a summary of it or make it available to inspect. In exceptional circumstances where the request is voluminous or complex we can extend the time for dealing with the request to 40 working days. Should this be necessary you will be informed.
Will I be charged?
Yes you will be charged a fee based on the time taken to find the record, photocopying charges and other reasonable expenses. You will be advised how much it will cost in a letter .The information will not be released until the fee has been paid. You cannot however be charged more than it actually costs us to provide the information.
No charge will be made if you wish to come into the Civic Centre to inspect the records.
Is there any information I am not allowed to have?
Yes some information is not available if it would adversely affect:
- International relations, defence, national security or public safety;
- The course of justice, the ability of a person to receive a fair trail or the ability of the Authority to conduct an enquiry of a criminal or disciplinary nature;
- Where to provide information would breach someone’s intellectual property rights;
- Where information is commercially confidential;
- Where the information relates to the protection of the environment.
Information is also not available if it is information, which is:
- Still in the course of completion
- Or relates to internal documents which are confidential
- Or where the request is so vague that we cannot tell what you want and you refuse to be more specific
- Where the request is manifestly unreasonable because of the time and burden that it would place on the resources of the Authority.
Do I need to go through this process just to get simple information?
No. A lot of environmental information is available on the Council website and other publications, as well as through telephone enquiries.
What if I'm not happy that you have refused to let me have the information?
You have a right of appeal to the council. You should write to the Strategic Director of Legal and Corporate services within 40 days of receipt of the refusal letter. The Council then has another 40 working days in which to respond.
If you are still unhappy you can contact the Information Commissioner, Wycliffe House, Waterlane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF
If you have any questions about your rights under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 please contact the council's Information Rights Officer.