Environmental information regulations

Coronavirus update (24 April)

Due to the emerging Coronavirus pandemic, Northamptonshire County Council will have difficulties in responding to requests received under the Freedom of Information Act or the Environmental Information Regulations within the time limits imposed by the legislation. This is because staff are being redeployed to services which the Council is obliged to prioritise above this Service during this time.

While such requests can be submitted and registered it is unlikely that they will be attended to at least until the Service is resumed on or after 01 June should circumstances permit.

A further announcement will be made should this not be possible. We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your understanding. Furthermore we would strongly urge you to consider whether your request is still required or can be delayed until after the pandemic is over.


​The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004 give the public access rights to environmental information that we hold. The regulations are designed to enable increased public involvement in environmental decision making.

In general we manage requests received under the EIR in a similar manner to those received under Freedom of Information (FOI).  There are, however, some key differences.

How do I make a request?

Requests under EIR may be made verbally as well as in writing. Please note that putting your request in writing is likely to help us understand what you want and therefore is likely to speed up the process.

You can send your request either by email to dataprotection@northamptonshire.gov.uk or by post to:

FOI/Data Protection Team
Northamptonshire County Council
Room 223
County Hall
Northampton
NN1 1ED

How long does it take?

As with FOI, we have 20 working days to respond.  However, under the EIR, if the request is complex and large the time period may be extended to a maximum of 40 working days.  We will advise you if we are likely to need to extend the time.

If we are unable to respond because the request is too general, we will ask you for further detail.  We are not required to respond to requests that are ‘manifestly unreasonable’.

How much does it cost?

The EIR allows us to make a charge for environmental information providing it is reasonable and unlike FOI there is no upper limit. In practice we will not charge for requests under EIR that take less than 18 hours to research and collate.

For requests over 18 hours we will contact you to discuss options which may include requesting a fee or working with you to revise the request. As for FOI, we reserve the right to charge for costs eg photocopying.

If we are going to charge a fee (because your request will take over 18 hours), the charge will be £25.00 per hour (the same rate as for FOI). We will send you a fees notice and you will then have 60 days to pay. If you refuse to pay the fee, we can refuse to supply the information.

Some environmental information is held on registers and other forms that make it possible for you to view it at a council office. In this case, there is no charge (we may still charge for copies).

Exceptions

As for FOI there are legal reasons why information may not be released to you. These are known as exceptions. If we do not release information to you because an exception applies we will explain why.

Requests under EIR may be refused because:

  • The information is not held
  • The request is manifestly unreasonable
  • The request is too general
  • The request is for unfinished documents/data
  • The request is for internal communications

If you want information from us you do not need to worry about whether the EIRs or the Freedom of Information Act apply.  Simply make your request and we will ensure that it is dealt with appropriately. Because the Act and the Regulations are very similar in most cases the result will be the same.