AIE Refusal: Coillte works in Avonmore_SC_010 Sub Catchment, Wicklow (related to the EU funded Waters of LIFE Project)

01.07.2022 

Subject:​AIE request ref: 202200132 

  

I refer to the request you made under the European Communities (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 2007 to 2018 (S.I. No. 133 of 2007, S.I. No. 662 of 2011, S.I. 615 of 2014 and S.I. No. 309 of 2018) (hereafter referred to as the AIE Regulations) dated 5th May 2022 and as refined on 7th June 2022 for access to information by email, for all works (e.g. afforestation, felling, roads – including repairs and maintenance in addition to new road works and road upgrade works)  undertaken by Coillte during the period from 31 December 2021 to the date of your reply,  in any part of the area referred to as Avonmore_SC_010 Sub Catchment in the EU funded Waters of LIFE Project (launched 3 May 2022): 

1. A copy of all Harvest Plans (including any Harvest Plans pre-dating 31 December 2021 but relating to any works (or part of works) being undertaken after 31 December 2021). 

 

2. A copy of all Operational Monitoring Records (including any Operational Monitoring Records pre-dating 31 December 2021 but relating to any works (or part of works) being undertaken after 31 December 2021). 

 

3. Details of any interactions and copies of all relevant records/correspondence (all media) with Inland Fisheries Ireland (‘IFI’) during the period from 31 December 2021 to the date of your reply. 

 

4. Details of any water related incidents connected with, and/or alleged to be connected with, any Coillte operations during the period from 31 December 2021 to the date of your reply.

Summary of Decision  

In the first instance I would like to thank you for your assistance with this request in terms of refinement.  However, the following decision was made after much further deliberation which gave consideration to all affected parties. 

 

I have made a decision on your request on the 01.07.2022.  I have decided refuse access to this information under the AIE Regulations pursuant to Article 9(1)(d) –  

  

9. (1) ​A public authority may refuse to make available environmental information where disclosure of the information requested would adversely affect –   

 

(d) intellectual property rights.  

 

Coillte is an associated beneficiary of the EU funded Waters of LIFE Project (IP) with the coordinating beneficiary being the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.  As such, Coillte have agreed with the Contracting Authority to do everything in its power to help the coordinating beneficiary fulfil its obligations under the grant agreement, and to provide the coordinating beneficiary, on its request, whatever documents or information may be required for monitoring and demonstrative purposes.  The records sought are inherently valuable to the coordinating beneficiary and the release of same would affect their legitimate interests in the implementation of this project.  The release of such information before the project has concluded and before the interim and final reports are published, would interfere with their intellectual property rights in this information. The coordinating beneficiary could be deprived of the opportunity of completing the project and this would adversely affect the delivery of the Waters of LIFE Project. 

 

Public interest test  

 

In considering the public interest generally, I have considered relevant factors for and against disclosure of the records, as set out below. A public authority may refuse to make available environmental information where its disclosure would adversely affect intellectual property rights.  

 

In accordance with Article 10(3) and 10(4) I have considered the grounds for refusal on a restrictive basis and have weighed the public interest served by disclosure against the interests served by refusal of your request. I have considered whether the public interest in disclosure of the information outweighs the interest served by refusal. I consider that the public interests served by disclosure would be openness and transparency.  

 

On the other hand, the interests served by refusal are also public interests, including, firstly, the fact that coordinating beneficiary are conducting a project, the findings of which will be published on the project website on completion. There is also a strong public interest in allowing research and demonstration projects of this nature the time and space to be allowed to conduct their work without the necessity to share preliminary findings, methodologies, and interim reports during the process.  

 

Furthermore, providing the requested information would breach the intellectual property rights of the coordinating beneficiary, thereby causing harm to the coordinating beneficiary.  

 

Having weighed these considerations, I have determined that the public interest in disclosing the information withheld does not outweigh the protection of the interests served by refusal.  

 

The project website will publish all relevant information upon completion of the project https://watersoflife.ie/ 

 

Under Article 11 of the AIE Regulations you have a right to request an internal review of this decision. An internal review involves a complete reconsideration of the matter by a member of the staff of Coillte, unconnected with the original decision, of the same or higher rank than the original decision-maker, who may affirm, vary or annul the original decision.  

If you wish to request an internal review, you can do so by writing to:  

 

Deirdre Coleman  

Company Secretary  

Coillte  

Dublin Road  

Newtownmountkennedy  

Co Wicklow

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