Guidance Note 4: Exceptions To The Duty To Disclose Environmental Information

There are limited exceptions to disclosure of environmental information, and the University may only refuse access if:

'in all circumstances of the case, the public interest in maintaining the exception outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information'

The University may refuse to disclose information if:

s4(a) the University does not hold the information, at the date when an applicant’s request is received;

s4(b) the request is manifestly unreasonable;

s4(c) the request is formulated too generally – although the University must provide advice and assistance to help the applicant clarify what information they want (Regulation 9, similar to s16 FOIA);

s4(d) the request is for unfinished documents or incomplete data;

s4(e) the request requires disclosure of internal communications.

Information might be exempt if its disclosure would adversely affect:

s5(a) international relations, defence, national security or public safety;

s5(b) the course of justice, fair trial, conduct of criminal or disciplinary enquiry;

s5(c) intellectual property rights (e.g. Patents, design rights, copyright, trade secrets);

s5(d) confidentially of proceedings that are required by law;

s5(e) the confidentiality of commercial or industrial information where such confidentiality is provided by law to protect a legitimate economic interest;

s5(f) the interests of the person who provided the information, where that person provided the information ‘in confidence’ without any legal obligation, and has not consented to its disclosure;

s5(g) protection of the environment to which it relates.

Note that information relating to emissions can not be refused under any exception referred to as s5(d) to (g).

In addition, on request, the University must be able to provide further background information on measurement procedures, methods of analysis, sampling etc used in compiling information on factors such as substances, emissions and discharges affecting the environment.

Remember ALL of these exceptions require a public interest test, and the balance lies heavily in favour of disclosure.

Regulation 13 governs release of Personal data, which acts in a similar way to s40 of the Freedom of Information Act – see Guidance Note: ‘Interaction between the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act’.