Authorities must disclose environmental information that journalists request

The Information Commissioner recently published guidelines on the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) 2004 that make it clear that the “default” position for public authorities and private companies is that they are legally obliged to provide environmental information that journalists ask for.

EIR is the equivalent to the Freedom of Information Act, and it applies, as the name suggests, to requests for information about environmental issues.

A Press Gazette article explains that EIR:

“…give the press and public access to all environmental information held by public bodies and companies delivering contracts for them.”

This will be useful in our current investigation into the Walshaw Moor Estate’s land management practices which are degrading and destroying protected moorland habitats. Specifically, I’m investigating:

  • why Natural England dropped its case against Walshaw Moor Estate Ltd, for breaching land management laws and regulations aimed at protecting blanket bog and other protected habitats
  • what the substance of its case was
  • the new Environmental Stewardship and Higher Level Stewardship agreement between Walshaw Moor Estate Ltd and Natural England

The Information Commissioner’s EIR guidelines clarify that it’s not just public authorities that have a legal duty to provide environmental information that journalists ask for. Private companies that have contracts to deliver goods and services to public authorities also have the same legal duty. So does this mean that Walshaw Moor Estate Ltd, which is contracted to deliver environmental stewardship services to Natural England, is legally obliged to provide information about their Environmental Stewardship and HIgher Level Stewardship contracts when journalists ask for it?

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