The complainant has requested information relating to the proposed route for the English Coast Path through Mistley, which lies on the Stour Estuary in Essex. Natural England (NE) provided a limited amount of information which was already in the public domain. However it went on to withhold the rest of the information under the exceptions provided by regulation 12(5)(d) – confidentiality of proceedings, and 12(5)(f) – voluntary supply of information. During the Commissioner’s investigation it became apparent that NE did not fact hold some of the information that had been requested. The complainant has also complained about the length of time it took NE to conduct an internal review of its handling of the request. The Commissioner’s decision is that NE is entitled to rely on the exception provided at 12(5)(d) to withhold the information to which it has been applied. It is also entitled to rely on regulation 12(5)(f) to withhold the majority of the information to which that exception has been applied. However some of the information to which regulation 12(5)(f) has been applied does not attract the exception. Some of that information though can be withheld under regulation 13 – personal information. In respect of two elements of the request, NE failed to comply with regulation 14, by not informing the complainant that the information was not held. In respect of the complaint concerning the time taken to complete the internal review, the Commissioner is not satisfied that NE breached regulation 11.The Commissioner has provided NE with a confidential annex which sets out the information which is not covered by any of the relevant exceptions. NE is required to disclose this information.
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