Type: Apps & Tools
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) provides public access to information held by public authorities – like the Environment Agency, for example. The main concept behind freedom of information legislation is that people have a right to know about the activities of public authorities unless there is good reason for them not to, and everybody has a right to access official information without needing to give a reason.
The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR) are complementary, but are a separate piece of legislation to the FOIA and are used to access environmental information held by public authorities. Environmental information is any information that would inform the public about matters affecting the environment.
An independent authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office, upholds these information rights in the public interest.
Access to information is crucial. Whether you’re running a campaign or are responsible for a policy area, having access to relevant, up to date information will help improve your effectiveness. Anyone has the right to request environmental information from a public authority and you do not have to give the reason as to why you are requesting the information.
A lot of people worry about potential harm to relationships if they request information. However, it’s important to remember it is your legal right to ask for information. NGOs fought long and hard to secure these rights and unless there is a very good reason not to, they should be used.
Any form of information can be requested – written, visual, aural or electronic.
If you get refused data and are unsatisfied, you can request an internal review with someone who did not deal with the original request And if you are still not satisfied, you can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner, which is free and relatively easy to do. More information can be found on the Commissioner’s website.