The EC Habitats Directive has been transposed into UK law through the Habitats Regulations 1994 (as amended).
The Directive and the national laws deriving from it set out a procedure for dealing with the effects of development, or any other plan or project, on Natura 2000 sites (these are Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA)). In the UK, it is also a matter of policy that the same procedure applies to Ramsar Sites.
The whole assessment process is often referred to as a Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA) in Scotland or a Habitats Regulations Assessment in England and Wales (the Habitats Regulations process is different in Northern Ireland, and is the subject of a separate capability statement).
NRP has expertise in the provision of advice for plans and projects that have the potential to impact upon Natura 2000 sites. Because of their importance these sites are subject to the highest levels of legal and policy protection, and for this reason any plan or project that has the potential to impact on them is subject to the highest level of scrutiny.
As part of the HRA process, there is a requirement to carry out an ‘appropriate assessment’ for plans or projects that are likely to have a significant effect on a Natura 2000 site. It is good practice for a developer to provide sufficient environmental information to enable the determining, or competent, authority to undertake such an assessment without recourse to additional requests for detail, incurring unnecessary delay. Experience has shown that submission of robust and comprehensive ornithological assessments reduces the time taken for determination of an application for planning permission.
Our ecologists are able to provide early advice to our clients on whether HRA is likely to be required, including our view on whether development proposals are consistent with the terms of the Directive. Thereafter we will collate the information required by the competent authority to complete the formal assessment. We have particular experience of undertaking this work in relation Annex 1 bird species.
Photo: G. Connelly
We can provide HRA Screening and Appropriate Assessment reports and have dealt with issues including habitat loss, disturbance, bird mortality (either through collision or electrocution) and barrier effects.
NRP has carried out numerous ‘shadow’ HRAs, the results of which have been used to demonstrate to relevant authorities that adverse effects on Natura 2000 sites can be avoided. This includes work on development plans, renewables projects, infrastructure projects, power lines, forestry proposals, fish farms, and quarry, road and housing developments.