Access to Information
What is the Right to Know?
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 give you the right to request recorded information held by a wide range of public authorities. The Environmental Information Regulations 2004 specificially relate to records relating to the environment. A helpful leaflet "The Right to Know" is available to download or in hard copy from Council Offices.
Council has in place associated Policies and Procedures relating to the Freedom of Information Act & the Environmental Information Regulations and the Data Protection Act for dealing with requests.
What information can I obtain?
Both pieces of legislation (Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004) enable you to get information to help you to understand better how Council works, how we spend public money, and how and why we make our decisions. However, you may not be able to obtain all the information you ask for as both pieces of legislation contains exemptions for some types of information which cannot be disclosed, for example, commercial information or personal information. The legislation permits a request for any information 'held' in any recorded form by a public authority (or held by another on behalf of a public authority). If the requester is asking for an opinion on an issue or asking for information that is not already held to be created, this is not a Freedom of Information Act request.
You can also obtain personal information under the Data Protection Act 1998 which, amongst other things, gives individuals access to their own personal information. For further information regarding your rights under the Data Protection Act, please see Council's privacy statement available at: https://www.causewaycoastandglens.gov.uk/footer-information/privacy-statement. Please note that a Data Protection Bill Act 1998 is currently undergoing passage through Westminister which will bring changes to the 1998 Act.
What are exemptions?
Both the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 contain a number of exemptions (in the Regulations they are called “exceptions”) allowing Council to withhold information in certain circumstances. However, most of the information held by the Council will not be subject to exemptions.
How do I get information held by the Council?
A wide range of information is already available to the public either in printed form (for which there may be a charge) or, if you have Internet access, on our website. Council is currently preparing a new publication scheme based on the Information Commissioner’s Model Publication Scheme and definition document which will incorporate the work of planning and off-street car parking. The publication scheme (draft) is constantly being updated and is available to view.
If the information you want is not available from the website you can ask for it by writing to Council. It is important that you provide us with your name and address (or email address) to enable a response to your request.
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council
66 Portstewart Road, Coleraine
Co. Londonderry, N Ireland BT52 1EY.
Tel: 028 7034 7034. Textphone: 028 7034 7056.
How long does it take to get information?
The legislation requires us to respond to your request for information as soon as possible after it is received, and not later than 20 working days after the date of receipt. This timescale may have to be extended if the information requested is very extensive and, therefore takes a long time to gather, or if we have to consider if providing it is in the public interest, or if we are waiting for you to pay a fee.
It will help us to process your request more quickly if you can be as specific as possible about what information you want. If necessary, we will contact you to ensure we understand your request clearly and this may add to the time we need to respond. It is also important to tell us whether you want the information sent to you on paper or by email, and whether you have any particular requirements. Information may be available in other languages or formats on request.
Is there a cost for getting information?
You may have to pay for information which is already published by Council. You may also have to pay a fee for other information requested and details are contained within Council's Charging Structure guidance. This will depend on a number of factors including the volume of material requested and the legislative basis for the request. Responses to enquiries under FOI legislation that cost Council less than £450 to process (including the cost of finding, sorting or editing the material) will normally be provided free of charge, although there may be a small charge for disbursements (may include costs of photocopying, printing, postage etc). Council has the right to refuse to respond to a request that is estimated to cost more than £450 to process. However, we may process the request if the cost is greater than £450 and if we do, you will be charged the costs in full and you will be advised in advance if Council is exercising this option.
A seperate EIR charging structure is applicable for requests made under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004. A leaflet on frequently asked questions is available to download. Full text of the legislation is available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2004/3391/contents and in summary the meaning of environmental information is as follows:
- The state of the elements of the environment (ie, air, water, soil, land etc) and the interaction between them.
- Factors such as substances, energy, noise radiation & waste that could affect the elements above (such as flooding, loss of habitat and noise).
- Emissions, discharges and other releases into the atmosphere.
- The state of human health and safety, contamination of the food chain, conditions of life & cultural or building sites affected by the elements.
- Policies, legislation, plans, programmes and administrative measures that could affect the environment and the economic analysis of such.
What happens if Council does not have the information I want?
We may not hold the information you request and the legislation does not require us to gather information that is not already there. However, it is possible that another public authority may hold the information and where possible we will assist you with the contact details. It is also possible that we may have had the information at one time but that it has been lawfully destroyed in accordance with Council's Retention and Disposal Schedule, in which case we will tell you.
What if I am refused information?
If we decide not to disclose some information, we must explain to you why it is being withheld.
Can I complain if I am unhappy with Council’s handling of my request for information?
You have the right to request an internal review if we do not deal with your request for information within the timescales set out in the legislation, that is normally not later than 20 working days after the date your enquiry is received by Council. You also have the right to request an internal review if you are dissatisfied with how a request was handled or Council's response to your request for information.
Your request should be registered in writing within two calendar months and will be investigated by the Chief Executive. You will receive a reply as soon as possible and normally within 40 working days after the date your complaint is received. Council has a separate complaints procedures for dealing with complaints not made under the legislation referred to above.
Please submit your request for an internal review in writing to:
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council
66 Portstewart Road, Coleraine
Co. Londonderry, N Ireland BT52 1EY
If you are still dissatisfied after the internal review you can request a review by the Information Commissioner.
Where can I get more information about the legislation?
More information about the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Environmental Regulations 2004 and the Data Protection Act 1998 is available from the Information Commissioner's Office.
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House, Water Lane
England. SK9 5AF
Tel: 0303 123 1113