The Freedom of Information Commissioner’s decision is that Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has breached regulation 5(2) of the EIR.
Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)
Date: 5 July 2021
Public Authority: Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council
Address: The Pavilions
Rhondda Cynon Taf
Decision (including any steps ordered)
1. The complainant requested from Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council (“the Council”) information relating to two specific planning applications. By the date of this notice the Council had not provided a substantive response to the request.
2. The Commissioner’s decision is that the Council failed to respond to the request within 20 working days and has therefore breached regulation 5(2) of the EIR.
3. The Commissioner requires the Council to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the legislation.
• Issue a substantive response to the request in accordance with its obligations under the EIR.
4. The Council must take these steps within 35 calendar days of the date of this decision notice. Failure to comply may result in the Commissioner making written certification of this fact to the High Court pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court.
Reference: IC-105004-Q8B62 Request and response
5. On 29 January 2021 the complainant wrote to the Council and requested information in the following terms:
“all documentation about planning and building control involvement in and approval of two planning application cases relating to what is now my property [address redacted]. These cases are 56/78/1276/B (garage and extension) and 87/3696 (bedroom, shower and dressing room extension).”
6. The Council wrote to the complainant on 29 January 2021 to acknowledge the request.
7. On 5 March 2021, the Council wrote to the complainant to provide her with an update on the status of her request.
8. The Council wrote to the complainant again on 25 March 2021 to provide the complainant with a further update on the status of her request.
9. On 22 April 2021, as the complainant had not received a response, she wrote to the Council to ask for an update on the status of her request.
10. By the date of this notice the Council had not responded to the complainant.
Scope of the case
11. The complainant contacted the Commissioner on 4 May 2021 to complain about the Council’s failure to respond to her request.
12. The Commissioner contacted the Council on 10 June 2021 reminding it of its responsibilities and asking it to provide a substantive response to the complainant within 10 working days.
13. The Commissioner also contacted the complainant on 10 June 2021 to explain that the Council had been given 10 working days from that date within which to provide a response to her request.
14. The complainant has provided evidence that she has received an acknowledgement from the Council but, by the date of this notice, had
not received a substantive response to her information request.
15. The scope of this notice and the following analysis is to consider whether the Council has complied with regulation 5(2) of the EIR.
Reasons for decision
Was the requested information environmental?
16. Regulation 2(1)(c) of the EIR defines environmental information as being information on: “measures (including administrative measures), such as policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities affecting or likely to affect the elements and factors referred to in (a) and (b) as well as measures or activities designed to protect those elements;”
17. The Commissioner notes that the wording of the request is for information about a planning application. She believes that this is likely to be information about policies, legislation, plans, programmes, environmental agreements, and activities affecting or likely to affect the elements and factors referred to in regulation 2(1)(a) and regulation 2(1)(b). For procedural reasons, the Commissioner has therefore assessed this case under the EIR. Regulation 5
18. Regulation 5(1) of the EIR states that: “a public authority that holds environmental information shall make it available on request.”
19. Regulation 5(2) of the EIR states that:
“Information shall be made available under paragraph (1) as soon as possible and no later than 20 working days after the date of receipt of the request.”
20. The Commissioner considers that the request in question fulfilled the above criteria and therefore constituted a valid request for recorded information under the EIR.
21. The Council did not provide a substantive response to the request within 20 working days of receipt. Therefore, the Commissioner’s decision is that the Council has breached regulation 5(2) of the EIR.