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Rights to local environmental information

Increased public access to environmental information leads to greater awareness of such matters, and more effective participation in decisionmaking. The aim is a better environment.

CLIMATE CHANGE CAMPAIGNERS should benefit from improved access to environmental information from the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC). The ERYC Cabinet Meeting (2nd March 2021) approved a new Freedom of Information and Environmental Information policy. This will strengthen the hand of those seeking environmental information held by ERYC.

The revised policy document brings environmental information regulations under the same governance as the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). This requires the council to progressively make the information available to the public by electronic means which are easily accessible. Where information is not available, the council must respond to requests from the public for such information within 20 days.

Air quality, water, soil and land pollution are some issues covered by the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR). Factors considered include energy, noise, radiation or waste, including radioactive waste, emissions, discharges and other releases into the environment. It covers access to information on policies, legislation, plans and programmes that may impact the environment. A request for information under the EIR can be in any form and need not be in writing.

In ten years 11,119 FOI requests were sent to the council. Darren Stevens director of corporate resources said that equated to an average 4.2 requests every day! There are 27 FOI link officers from across the council who liaise with relevant departments. A newly named Information and Governance Feedback Team coordinate the actual responses. It is this team that will now manage the EIR requests.

Increased public access to environmental information and its dissemination aims to contribute to a greater awareness of environmental matters. This should lead to more effective participation by the public in environmental decisionmaking. The eventual aim is a better environment.

More on Freedom of Information at ERYC: www.eastriding.gov.uk/council/governance-and-spending/freedom-of-information/

At the Information Commissioner’s Office: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-environmental-information-regulations/what-are-the-eir/#6

Another useful public service from mySociety, is WhatDoTheyKnow.com

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