Students Staff

Access to environmental information

Under the rights established by the Environmental Information Regulations, any individual from anywhere in the world can access recorded environmental information the University is holding. Generally, in order to ensure consistency, transparency and a unified approach, the University manages its compliance with the Regulations in accordance with its established procedures for complying with the obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). It does recognise however that there are key differences between the two pieces of legislation. This page provides details on how environmental information is defined; how you can access the information; what information is exempt, the University's approach to charging; and how complaints are managed.

What is environmental information?

The Regulations define environmental information as "any information in written, visual, aural, electronic or any other material form” on:

  • the state of elements of the environment (such as air, water, soil, land, landscape and natural sites, flora and fauna, including cattle, crops, GMOs, wildlife and biological diversity) and interaction between them;
  • the state of human health and safety, conditions of human life, the food chain, cultural sites and built structures in as much as they are or may be affected by the state of the elements of the environment and interaction between them;
  • substances, energy, noise, radiation or waste affecting or likely to affect the state of the elements of environment and interaction between them;
  • measures (including administrative measures, policies, legislation, plans, programmes and environmental agreements) and activities affecting or likely to affect, or intended to protect the state of elements of the environment and the interaction between them;
  • emissions discharges and other releases into environment, and
  • cost benefit and other economic analysis used in environmental decision-making.

How can I access environmental information?

Requests for environmental information are handled by the University in the same way as requests made under the FOIA. Applicants are advised to submit a request to the Information Manager. The request can be made in writing (letter or fax), by email, orally over the telephone or during a meeting, or by some other means of communication, for example, by sign language. Although, unlike requests made under the FOIA, the University cannot insist that a request is put in writing, in order to maintain accurate records of requests and to ensure a correct and full response, the University prefers that a request is put in writing, even if this is only to confirm earlier non-written communication. The University always responds to applicants making non-written requests with a formal written confirmation of what information has been requested.

Following receipt of a request, in line with the procedures established under the FOIA, the University has 20 working days to respond to your request. Please note that we may contact you for further information if your request is ambiguous or unclear.

Can a request for environmental information be refused?

Generally, the Regulations require the University to disclose any requested information that is defined by the provisions as "environmental”. There are certain circumstances however under which a request can be refused or the information can be redacted before disclosure. These are if the:

  • information is not held – the University then has a duty to forward the request on to a relevant body that may hold the information;
  • request is "manifestly unreasonable”;
  • request is too general even after the University has fulfilled its duty to provide advice and assistance;
  • request is for unfinished documents or data – the University must then provide an estimated time for completion;
  • request is for internal communications (although as with all requests made under the Regulations, the public interest test must be applied).

Subject to the public interest test, information may also be withheld or redacted in order to protect the following:

  • the course of justice;
  • intellectual property rights;
  • the confidentiality of the University's proceedings (where such confidentiality is provided by law);
  • commercial or industrial confidentiality;
  • the interests of a third party who may have provided the information; or
  • the environment to which the information relates.

Fees and charging

The University charges for information requested under the Regulations in accordance with its Freedom of Information Fees and Charging Policy.

Complaints procedure

The University manages complaints or requests to reconsider a decision on disclosure of information requested under the Regulations in accordance with its Freedom of Information complaints procedure.

Further information