In a landmark ruling announced today, the Prince of Wales’s private estate now do not have to hand over environmental information relating to an oyster farm it runs at Port Navas near Falmouth. This dispute has been rumbling for a number of years following a ruling in favour of the Duchy of Cornwall by the Information Commissioner in 2010.
This relates to a campaign launched by a local environmentalist, Michael Bruton, who had requested the Duchy disclose environmental data in 2008. It related to an oyster farm in the Lower Fal and Helford special area of conservation near Falmouth. Mr Bruton was concerned at the potential impact of the non-native Pacific Oysters being bred by Duchy of Cornwall Oyster Farms may have on the natural habitat.
This dispute had gone to the Information Commissioner, as the Environmental Information Regulations that Mr Bruton had asked for the report under are part of the Freedom of Information regulations. The ruling of the Information Commissioner was appealed to the First Tier tribunal on information rights, which deals with legal cases relating to freedom of information cases.
In November 2011 John Angel, principal judge of the tribunal, overruled the ruling and stated the Duchy was a public body and therefore subject to the regulations. He then issued an environmental information disclosure order. This ruling was overruled today and the appeals tribunal agreed with the position that the Duchy had taken from 2008 that it was not a public body and therefore not bound by the regulations.
Mr. Justice Charles said in his written ruling: “The information sought does not exist but no point has been taken that this appeal is academic.
“This is because the underlying legal issues are relevant to another request Mr. Bruton has made, other requests that he and others would like to make, and more generally.”
The Duchy of Cornwall was created by Edward III for his son, Edward the Black Prince in 1339 and its purpose was to provide an income for the Prince of Wales. The Duchy like many ducal estates owns land across a number of counties. In the case of the Duchy, it owns just under 54,000 hectares including the Isles of Scilly.
Income raised by the Duchy of Cornwall still provides an income for the Prince and he does not claim any money from the Civil List.