Environmental Information

July 17th, 2020

There is an exception to the duty under Directive 2003/4 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, S.I. 2004/3391, to disclose environmental information, when the request for disclosure involves the disclosure of “ internal communications”. What are they? They are not defined in the Directive.

This was the primary issue addressed by Advocate General Hogan in Case C-629/19, Land Baden-Wurtennberg v DR. The case concerned documents relating to tree felling in connection with an infrastructure development project in Stuttgart Castle Park. He observed that this exception is to preserve a necessary space for public authorities to deliberate in private, to protect the freedom of thought of the people behind the communication concerned and the possibility to exchange views freely.

The Advocate General stated, at para 27 of his Opinion, that “ communication” is not just any document. It implies an addressee. The relevant information must be addressed to someone. As regards “ internal “, that can include information intended to leave the internal sphere at a given time : paras 42-44.

He concludes, at para 46, that “ internal communication “ covers any document, intended to be addressed to someone, regardless of its content, and which has not yet left the sphere of the authority on the date on which the authority has to take a decision on the request.

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