River Wharfe. Copyright: DreamstimeJust as with Freedom of Information (FoI) anyone can make a request for environmental information. This includes individuals and organisations. Unlike FoI, environmental information can be requested verbally as well as in a written format. Requests for information about the environment will be handled under the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) and can be made to public sector organisations and non-public bodies carrying out a function for a public body.

Environmental information is divided into the following six main areas, as stated on the Information Commissioner’s Office website:

  1. The state of the elements of the environment, such as air, water, soil, land, fauna (including human beings)
  2. Emissions and discharges, noise, energy, radiation, waste and other such substances
  3. Measures and activities such as policies, plans, and agreements affecting or likely to affect the state of the elements of the environment
  4. Reports, cost-benefit and economic analyses
  5. The state of human health and safety, contamination of the food chain
  6. Cultural sites and built structures (to the extent they might be affected by the state of the elements of the environment)

Making a request for information

A request can be made to any employee but we can deal with your request more efficiently if it is directed to the Freedom of Information specialist at the address below:

Freedom of Information specialist

NHS Yorkshire and Humber Commissioning Support
Douglas Mill
Bowling Old Lane
Bradford
BD5 7JR

Fax no: 01274 237453

Alternatively, you can submit a request online.

If a verbal request is made we ask that you follow up the verbal request with a written request (letter, fax or email) with details of who you spoke to initially.

Regardless of how the request was made we have to reply to you in writing. Therefore, if a verbal request is made you must provide some way for us to send you our response, this could be either a postal or email address.

Requests have to have a response within 20 working days. This can be extended by a further 20 working days (to 40 working days) if the request is very large or complex but we have to inform you of this within 20 working days of receiving your request.

Charges

A public authority cannot charge for the following but can charge for other situations.

(a) access to public registers or lists of environmental information, or
(b) to examine the information (at a place chosen by the public authority).

Schedule of charges:

Guidance on charges on the legislation.gov.uk website

If a fee has been charged then the request will be put on hold until the fee is received – the applicant has a maximum of 60 working days to pay the fee.

Reasons for not releasing information

If the information requested is not held then the information cannot be released by us.

There are exceptions to not releasing certain categories of information. However, if the information requested falls into one of these categories and it is in the public interest to disclose the information, then it will be.

If we determine that it is not in the public interest to disclose the information then we have to inform you and explain why we are withholding the information.

If none or part of the information is not held by us then we can do the following:

  • transfer the request to the public authority that does hold the information
  • issue a refusal notice and advise where the information is held
  • issue a refusal notice if we do not know where the information is held

If part of the information is held then we will supply the information we have and follow the  procedure above for the information we do not hold.

There are a number of exceptions why information cannot be released and these are listed under Regulation 12. This is summarised below. For further guidance on exceptions visit the Information Commissioner’s website.

12(1) and 12(2) – the public interest test – all information under the EIRs is subject to the Public Interest Test, the CCG can refuse to disclose the information if in all the circumstances of the case, the public interest in withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.

12(3) – Personal information – an applicant has access to their own information under the Data Protection Act. If information requested includes personal data which is not the personal data of the applicant the information will not be released otherwise than in accordance with Regulation 13 and the Data Protection Act.

12(4) – Exceptions based upon the type of information:

12(4)(a) – we do not hold the information when an applicants request is received

12(4)(b) – the request for information is manifestly unreasonable

12(4)(c) – the request is too general

12(4)(d) – the the request relates to information which is unfinished or in the course of being completed

12(4)(e) – the request involves the disclosure of internal communications

12(5) – exceptions based upon the content of the information requested:

12(5)(a) – international relations, defence, national security and public safety

12(5)(b) – the course of justice, the ability of a person to obtain a fair trial or the ability of a public authority to conduct an inquiry of a criminal or a disciplinary nature

12(5)(c) – intellectual property rights

12(5)(d) – the confidentiality of the proceedings of a public authority where such confidentiality is provided by law

12(5)(e) – the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is provided by law to protect a legitimate economic interest

12(5)(f) – the interests of the supplier of the information

12(5)(g) – the protection of the environment

12(6) and 12(7) – either confirm nor deny

12(9) – Emissions

Complaints

You can make a complaint if the information requested has not been supplied or if you feel the process for handling your request has not been followed correctly by writing to:

Information Governance Manager
NHS Yorkshire and Humber CSU
Douglas Mill
Bowling Old Lane
Bradford
BD5 7JR

If you are not happy with the outcome of the internal complaints procedure then you can write to the Information Commissioner at the following address:

Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

Useful links

Environmental Information Regulations
Information Commissioner’s Office
DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Environment Agency Public Registers