The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 enable the designation and protection of areas that host certain important habitats and species out to 12 nautical miles offshore. These European protected sites are known as:
- Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for the protection of certain habitats and species
- Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for the protection of certain wild bird species
Any application for works within or adjacent to a European site will be subject to the provisions of The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. This means that we will carry out a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA).
In Wales and the UK, Ramsar Sites (identified under the Ramsar Convention) are also afforded the same level of protection as fully designated Natura 2000 sites. Together, these international sites are referred to as European Sites.
How is an HRA undertaken in the marine licensing process?
The first test to be applied is whether the proposed project is likely to have a significant impact on the relevant European Site.
Projects with significant impacts
If we conclude that the work is likely to have a significant impact, we will carry out an Appropriate Assessment of the works to assess whether they will have an adverse impact on the integrity of the European Site.
Projects with adverse impacts
Unless the conclusion is that there will be no adverse impact, the applicant will have to consider measures to mitigate any adverse effects.
If appropriate and adequate mitigation measures are not possible, the project may only be consented if there is no alternative approach, that there are reasons of overriding public interest for it to proceed, and after a suitable compensation package has been agreed.
Where an Appropriate Assessment is required under the Habitats Directive, the applicant must provide sufficient information to inform that assessment.