Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations

As a public authority, the College is committed to its obligations of transparency in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (2000) and the Environmental Information Regulations (2004). Please see below to help you understand our obligations to support your ‘right to know’ and how you can exercise this Right.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOI) provides the public with access to information held by public authorities.

The Freedom of Information Act (2000) gives the public the right of access to recorded information held by public authorities (subject to certain conditions and exemptions) including Further and Higher Education institutions. Compliance with legislation is demonstrated through implementation of the Code of Practice 2018.

This is conducted in two ways:

  • Public authorities are obliged to publish certain information about their activities; and
  • Members of the public are entitled to request information from public authorities.

The main principle behind freedom of information legislation is that people have a right to know about the activities of public authorities, unless there is a good reason for them not to. This is sometimes described as a presumption or assumption in favour of disclosure. The Act is also sometimes described as purpose and applicant blind.

The Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) (2004) provides public access to environmental information held by public authorities, including Further and Higher Education institutions and impose several obligations on them. Therefore, similar to that of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (2000) as both are intended to promote openness and accountability amongst public authorities.

The table below illustrates examples of what EIR (2004) request could consist of:

ElementsAir, water, soil, and landscapesCondition of football pitches
Factors that effect on the environmentEnergy, noise, waster, and emissionsEnergy used at local theatre
Measures designed to affect the environment Policies, legislation, and plansHealth and safety plan
Reports on legislation  
AnalysesCost/benefit analyses related to measuresHealth and safety reports
State of human health & safety Sanitation, food, hygiene, and state of buildings Pool water testing information, hygiene reports for café

Any individual/organisation can submit a request for information relating to College business activities.


Section 8 of FOIA states the criteria for a valid request to be:

  1. In writing
  2. states the name of the individual and an address for correspondence
  3. describes the information requested.               


Any individual can submit and EIR request to the College either verbally or in writing. The individual must provide:

  1. Contact Name
  2. Contact Details
  3. Description of the information they are requesting

Requests can be sent to the Records Manager at:

Records Manager

SERC, Bangor Campus

Castle Park Road


BT20 4TD


No, you do not need to state why you want the information you have requested.
The College has 20 working days to respond to all FOI/EIR request. However, on some occasions the College may need to contact you to seek clarity on your request.  Where clarification is required the clock for 20 working days will be paused. Upon receiving clarification, the 20-working daytime frame will resume. There may be occasions where the College needs to extend the time for response within the perimeter of legislation. However, you will be notified if this arises.


Section 12 of FOIA allows the College to refuse a request if the cost of compliance would exceed the appropriate limit of £450. Compliance factors can include:

  • Complying in entirety, or
  • Confirm/deny if the information is held.  

The estimate must be always reasonable.

The limit of £450 is calculated at £25 per hour, regardless of the grade of staff member(s) who would be involved in the response. If the cost to determine the following 4 points exceeds £450, the Section 12 exemption is engaged.

  • Determining whether the information is held
  • Locating information, or a document containing it
  • Retrieving the information, or document containing it
  • Extracting the information from a document containing it

Where the cost exemption has been exceeded, the College may exercise its duty to ‘advise and assist’ to help the individual reformulate their request so that the maximum limit is not reached.


Regulation 8 allows the College can charge a discretionary amount to make environmental information available. The charge must be reasonable and not exceed the cost of providing that information.

Where a charge is made, the College must provide a schedule of charges and provide the individual with details on how to make the payment in advance of the information being released.

A public authority shall not make any charge for allowing an applicant:

  1. to access any public registers or lists of environmental information held by the public authority; or
  2. To examine the information requested at the place which the public authority makes available for that examination.

The College must allow 60 working days for receipt of payment. While this process is underway, the time for response is paused until such payment is made.

The College is committed to transparency regarding its business activities however, the law does allow the College to withhold information if certain criteria are met e.g., where withholding the information outweighs the public interest in disclosure.  

Please note, ‘Public Interest’ is defined as information which will benefit the public and which they should be aware of.  

All requests will be carefully assessed before such a decision is made and where information is withheld, a Refusal Notice will be provided. 

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) is the Regulator for GDPR, Data Protection, Freedom of Information, and environmental Information legislation.  They provide advice and guidance to both the public and organisations in relation to the legislation.  

The College regularly communicates with the ICO and refers to their guidance to demonstrate a high standard of compliance with legislation.  

Click here for the ICO homepage Home | ICO

If an individual is not happy with how the College has handled their request or exceptions applied to the response, they have the right to request an internal review. Appeals should be submitted within 2 weeks of receipt of their response (40 days for EIR) detailing reasons for dissatisfaction and should be addressed to:

Records Manager

SERC, Bangor Campus

Castle Park Road


Co Down

BT20 4TD

The College will convene an independent panel of staff who will then examine the initial request/response, for appeal and review if there are areas for improvement and whether the College can reconsider releasing information originally withheld. If you remain unhappy with the outcome, you can contact the Information Commissioners Officer at:


Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow, Cheshire


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You can access the College’s Access to Information (FOI and EIR) Policy via this link:

Access to Information Policy


Further details regarding this document can be obtained by contacting the Records Manager at the following:

Records Manager
SERC Bangor Campus
Castle Park Road
BT20 4TD

The Information Commissioner's Office

The FE Sector will continually refer to legislation and ICO guidance when processing and publishing Freedom of Information documents.

Further information is available to the public on the ICO website: Guide to freedom of information | ICO.

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Public Information

We publish a range of information that is available to the public as part of our commitment to openness and transparency.

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Publication Scheme

Our publication scheme commits us to make information available to the public as part of its normal business activities.

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Data Protection

As Data Controller, the College has an obligation to process all personal data within the provisions of the law.

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