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Refusal to Grant Information

Under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004, public authorities can refuse to disclose environmental information if one or more of the exceptions below applies, and if the public interest in withholding the information is greater than that of disclosing the information. However there must be a presumption in favour of disclosure.

Exceptions to the duty to disclose

Provided it can justify why it is in the public interest to do so, a public authority may withhold environmental information if:

  • it does not hold the information at the time of the request (in which case, if it believes that another public authority does hold the information, it has a duty to transfer the request to that authority)
  • the request is too general or vague and the applicant refuses to clarify or refine the request
  • the information or data requested is unfinished or incomplete (in which case the public authority is expected to estimate when the information will be completed)
  • the request is manifestly unreasonable (similar to the exemption under Freedom of Information legislation for vexatious requests)
  • meeting the request requires the disclosure of internal communications
  • the request relates to personal data that does not belong to the applicant (such requests being covered by the Data Protection Act).

A public authority may also withhold environmental information if disclosure of the information would adversely affect any of the following:

  • national security, public safety, international relations or defence
  • the course of justice, the conduct of a criminal or disciplinary inquiry, or a person's right to fair trial
  • intellectual property rights
  • the confidentiality of any public authority's proceedings, unless the information relates to emissions
  • commercial confidentiality, unless the information relates to emissions
  • the interests of the person or business that gave the information voluntarily to the authority, unless they consent to its disclosure or the information relates to emissions
  • the protection of the environment to which the information relates, unless it relates to emissions.

Legislation

Data Protection Act 1998

Environmental Information Regulations 2004

Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

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