Analysis of Reeves v The Information Commissioner: Balancing Environmental Information Access with Data Protection Rights

Citation: [2023] UKFTT 1032 (GRC)
Judgment on


The recent case of Malcolm Reeves v The Information Commissioner addresses multiple intersecting aspects of environmental information regulation, data protection, and the freedom of information rights within the legal framework of the United Kingdom. The case, heard by the First-tier Tribunal General Regulatory Chamber Information Rights, highlights the nuanced balance between the public’s right to access information and the protection of personal data. This article analyses the case law, identifying critical topics and legal principles applied by the Tribunal.

Key Facts

Malcolm Reeves appealed against the Information Commissioner’s decision, which supported Wiltshire Council’s refusal to disclose certain withheld information under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR). The Tribunal evaluated whether the requested information was Mr. Reeves’ personal data, whether certain content fell within the scope of the appeal, and whether other elements of the request met the standard to be classified as third-party personal data.

The context of the appeal revolved around Stanton St Quintin Parish Council’s applications to register land as a town or village green and Mr. Reeves’ concern over the implications this designation would have on utilities to his property. Mr. Reeves had previously made multiple requests for information under both the EIR and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), leading to partial disclosures with redactions.

Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)

The EIR specifies that environmental information held by public authorities must be disclosed upon request unless exemptions apply. Notably, the EIR defers, via regulations 5(3) and 13, to the separate regime of data protection laws when it comes to handling personal data.

Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA)

The DPA sets out the UK’s data protection framework, including definitions and principles related to personal data. The Tribunal had to apply these definitions to determine if the redacted information constituted Mr. Reeves’ or third-party personal data from disclosure.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Personal data processing must be lawful and fair, with one lawful basis being that the processing is necessary for legitimate interests that are not overridden by the individual’s fundamental rights or interests.

Closed Material Procedures

Closed material procedures were employed for parts of the information, highlighting the Tribunal’s commitment to not defeating the purpose of these proceedings by accidentally disclosing sensitive data.


After evaluating each contested item:

  • Items 2, 3 & 4: Tribunal found redactions of personal data to be correctly classified as Mr. Reeves’ data and thus exempt under regulation 5(3).
  • Item 5 & 6: The Appeal upheld the Council’s reliance on regulation 5(3) to redact information pertaining to both Mr. Reeves and a third party within the same data set.
  • Item 7: Determined to be outside the scope of the Tribunal, as it was not covered by the original complaint to the Commissioner and hence not part of the decision notice.
  • Item 8: Considered outside the scope of Mr. Reeves’ request to the Council, not aligning directly with the town and village green application.


This case illustrates the rigorous approach that must be taken when balancing transparency obligations under the EIR with the significant protections afforded to personal data under the DPA and GDPR. Specifically, the Tribunal’s analysis highlights that access to environmental information is not absolute and can be curtailed when intersecting with data protection provisions. The decision reflects the complexities of adjudicating information rights cases, where the Tribunal has to tread carefully around the boundaries of multiple regulatory frameworks to ensure a fair and lawful outcome.