Accessing environmental information

The Environmental Information Regulations give the public the right to ask for environmental information from public bodies. These include central government, local authorities and other organisations, such as water and waste authorities.

What environmental information includes

Environmental information is about:

  • air
  • water
  • soil
  • land
  • plants and animals
  • energy
  • noise
  • waste
  • emissions

It also includes information which has a clear link to the environment such as decisions, measures and activities affecting or likely to affect the environment.

How to access the information

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) is an executive agency within the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

NIEA takes the lead in advising on and carrying out environmental policy and strategy in Northern Ireland. 

The Northern Ireland environmental statistics report has information on:

  • population
  • air quality
  • climate
  • water quality
  • marine environment
  • biodiversity
  • land and landscape
  • waste

More environmental information is published on Northern Ireland government department websites.

Public authorities have a duty to give this information electronically, so you should check the website of the relevant department. If you can't find the information you are looking for, you can ask for it from the relevant department. 

Environmental information is often given free-of-charge, but a charge can sometimes be made. Some requests for information can be refused.

Other sources of DAERA information

Information on the Ordnance Survey of Nothern Ireland's Spatial Map Viewer includes Northern Ireland Geology. 

Where a request for information can be refused

There are a number of exceptions in the legislation that allow a public authority to refuse to give out the information. These would be where the release would damage:

  • commercial interests
  • international relations, defence, national security or public safety
  • the course of justice and the ability of someone to receive a fair trial
  • the public authority's ability to do its business

Where information is about emissions there are more limited exceptions under which information can be withheld.

Data hub

Some NIEA, Departmental UK and EU web mappers and data portals support scientific data, evidence and reports.

Marine data portals and map viewers

Marine online assessment tool (MOAT)

The Marine online assessment tool gives you access to the integrated assessments and indicator assessments used to assess progress towards good environmental status (GES).  It makes the science supporting the assessments easily available to all.

Marine Map Viewer

The Marine Mapviewer has data that shows the spatial distribution of uses and activities in the Northern Ireland Marine Area and aims to support the understanding of the marine planning process.

Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN)

The Marine Environmental Data and Information Network (MEDIN) promotes the sharing of and improved access to marine data. It is an open partnership and its partners represent government departments, research institutions and private companies. 

Marine Environment Monitoring and Assessment National database -MERMAN

MERMAN holds UK data collected to fulfil the UK’s mandatory monitoring requirements under the Oslo and Paris Convention (OSPAR) Joint Assessments and Monitoring Programme (JAMP). The data used supports European Commission (EC) directives and national assessments, such as Charting Progress 2 is also given to EMODnet Chemistry, ICES and DASHH. 

The archive for marine species and habitats data - DASSH

DASSH is the UK Data Archive Centre for marine biodiversity data for species and habitats. 

European Marine Observation and Data Network - EMODnet

EMODnet has European marine data across seven discipline-based themes:

  • bathymetry
  • geology
  • seabed habitats
  • chemistry
  • biology
  • physics
  • human activities

The data is used to create multi-resolution maps of all Europe’s seas and oceans, covering all seven themes - these are expected to be finished in 2020.

Northern Ireland contaminant data is given to EMODnet Chemistry via MERMAN.

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea - ICES

ICES is an intergovernmental marine science organisation, meeting societal needs for impartial evidence on the state and sustainable use of our seas and oceans.

ICES has a data centre which manages large dataset collections about the marine environment. Datasets are organised around specific, themed data portals. Contaminants, biological effects, and biological community data are made available through the Database on Oceanography and Marine Ecosystems (DOME) web portal. Northern Ireland data is available via the OSPAR MIME Assessment Tool.

OSPAR Data Information Management System - ODIMS

ODIMS helps to make sure that data is accessible for OSPAR assessments. It also helps users to easily find data held by OSPAR and to make use of it. ODIMS links to Northern Ireland marine contaminant data in DOME.

National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas and NBN Atlas Northern Ireland

The NBN Atlas is a free online tool  to engage with and teach people about the natural world. 

CEDaR is the Local Environmental Records Centre for Northern Ireland and its coastal waters.

More useful links

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