Couple lose legal challenge against Coillte to reveal land sale details
A couple have lost their legal challenge to a refusal by the Commissioner for Environmental Information to rule that State forestry agency Coillte must give them information about lands and forestry sold by it, including who bought the property and how much was paid.
Ms Justice Una Ni Raifeartaigh agreed with the Commissioner such information is not “environmental information” within the meaning of regulations of 2007 governing access to environmental information.
While she also agreed with the Commissioner that information provided by a purchaser to a public authority concerning a proposed development of lands is environmental information, and therefore disclosable, she upheld the Commissioner’s finding that, in this case, Coillte could not be required disclose such information when it had said it simply did not have it.
Jim and Mary Redmond, representing themselves, sought a High Court review of the Commissioner’s November 2015 refusal to require Coillte to give them certain information about its sale in late 2013 of almost 403 hectares of lands and forestry at Kilcooley Abbey Estate, Thurles, Co Tipperary.
Coillte did inform the couple it had sold a leasehold interest in lands and trees but refused to disclose other information on grounds it was commercially sensitive.
Their concerns about the sale included the estate was part of an important historical site with a listed building status and the sale could impact on the environment, including wildlife and deer. They also complained Coillte had made no efforts to consult or inform the public about its intended sale and said it had been reported the sale was below market value.
In rejecting their complaints, Coillte said the sale complied with its process and protocol requirements relating to property sales and that, before the sale, it engaged in a consultation process with the local community including a leaflet drop and one to one meetings with certain parties.
The judicial review centred on the meaning of “environmental information” under the 2007 EC (Access to Environmental Information) Regulations – the AEI Regulations.