Habitat Regulations Assessment
The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2010) ‘the Habitat Regulations’ provide for the designation of sites of European importance for nature conservation. These comprise Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), which are designated for the protection of certain habitats and species, and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), which are designated for the protection of certain species of wild bird. Together with Ramsar sites (which are treated as European sites in the UK as a matter of policy), these sites make up the Natura 2000 network.
The Habitat Regulations set out a procedure for dealing with development in relation to Natura 2000 sites. The process, known as ‘Habitat Regulations Assessment’ (HRA), involves an initial screening stage to filter out developments which do not require further assessment, followed by an appropriate assessment for developments that are likely to have a significant effect on one or more Natura 2000 sites.
The screening stage determines whether a development is likely to have a significant effect on a Natura 2000 site. Any development that has the potential to affect a Natura 2000 site, either alone or in combination with other plans or projects, must be considered. Possible ecological pathways include increased recreational pressure, air pollution, and effects on water quality and resources. If it is concluded that the development is unlikely to have a significant effect on a Natura 2000 site then no further assessment is required and the competent authority may determine the planning application.
Competent authorities can only agree to the development after having determined that it will not adversely affect the integrity of a Natura 2000 site. Therefore, if in light of the findings of the appropriate assessment this cannot be concluded, appropriate measures must be put in place to avoid or reduce the adverse effects.