You asked for a review of our response to your request for information relating to the engineering report for Ballyoukan Road and historic information regarding the existing road, our reference 2022/00323423.
In your review request you stated that:
‘The FOI is a request for information regards an engineering survey, the response that requesting documented evidence for an engineering survey comes under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 is frankly waffle’.
The Environmental Information Regulations (Scotland) 2004 created a set of rules governing the publication and release of environmental information by Scottish public authorities. These regulations replace the Freedom of Information rules when environmental information is the subject of a request and we have an obligation to follow them.
The definition of environmental information includes information regarding ‘measures or activities’ where these ‘affect or are likely to affect the elements of the environment’. This covers a large proportion of the work of Scottish Forestry, including the regulation of forestry management and request is being dealt with under the EIRs and not under FOISA. The rights provided by the EIRs are similar to those under the FOI Act. Whilst the two regimes are not identical, they are similar in their requirements. The Scottish Information Commissioner provides a useful comparison here and a general overview of the EIRs and how they operate here.
It is my finding that your original request was correctly dealt with under the EIRs.
Historic information request
In your original request you asked:
'In respect of the current road which was rebuilt in 2002/2003 after serious flooding, please provide:
- Name and contact details of the company which undertook the design, specification and construction of the rebuilt road
- Full and unredacted copy of the Terms of Reference for the scope of work
- Full and unredacted copy of the engineering drawings and specifications
- Full and unredacted details of the materials used
Confirm and provide evidence that the specification and construction of the rebuilt road is in compliance with current UK Standards and suitable for timber transport operations.'
In our response we noted that this information was not held by Scottish Forestry at the time of your request. In relation to the last point, the current forest plan development process being undertaken is expected to include, amongst other issues, consideration as to whether the road is suitable for timber transport operations.
In your review request you stated that:
The 2nd part of this FOI is a similar request for engineering information but in this case it is historic as the road was built in 2002. In this case I am deflected towards PKC who have already stated they are not responsible for this road. The reason for contacting SF is that as you are the regulator and that this road was rebuilt by Scottish Woodland so as the regulator I would expect you to have or can get the necessary information.
Scottish Forestry is only the regulator for forest roads in certain circumstances: for instance, if the works directly link to a felling permission application or Forest Plan, or when the Forestry Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations come into play. If a road is being rebuilt because of damage to it, for example by flooding as you state, then we would have no role in regulating the rebuilding of the road, unless an Environmental Impact Assessment screening assessment was triggered.
An Environmental Impact Assessment screening assessment may come into play in certain circumstances, such as where a new road is being built or an existing road is being widened over a significant length.
Further details of forestry EIAs can be found here: Scottish Forestry - Environmental Impact Assessments.
I have reviewed the information provided and spoken with the local teams who might hold relevant information. The local teams have confirmed that they made searches of the organisation’s systems (emails, shared drives, etc.) for any information associated with this request, including any Environmental Impact Assessment, and have confirmed that we do not hold any information on the rebuilding of the road as you request.
It is therefore my finding that your original request was correctly dealt with as Scottish Forestry did not hold the information you requested at the time of your request.
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
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