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.
We can determine whether a development requires a Habitat Regulations Assessment and if necessary, conduct an appropriate assessment on behalf of the competent authority. This includes giving our view as to whether the development is compliant with the Habitat Regulations.
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.
If the development is likely to have a significant effect on a Natura 2000 site, then an appropriate assessment of the implications for that site must be undertaken, in view of its conservation objectives. The scope of the appropriate assessment should be agreed with the competent authority and relevant statutory body, and should reflect both the nature and the scale of the development. Whilst the competent authority (normally a local planning authority) formally carries out the assessment, details for this have to be supplied by the applicant and in practice, the responsibility for conducting the assessment normally falls to the developer.
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.
Babec Ecological Consultants are based in Sussex and Hertfordshire, and provide Habitat Regulations Assessments across West Sussex, East Sussex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridge, Essex, London and throughout England and Wales. We are happy to give free initial advice and provide an excellent service at competitive rates. Click here to get in touch.