What is Habitat Regulations Assessment / Appropriate Assessment?
European legislation requires member states including the UK to designate a series of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to protect areas supporting populations and habitats of importance within Europe. This network of European protected sites is widely referred to as the Natura 2000 Network. Any plan or project which could be considered to have a ‘likely significant effect’ on a Natura 2000 site requires a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA). A HRA typically comprises of the following stages:
- Define the development proposal
- Establish the protected species that requires the site to have extra protection
- Identify potential effects associated with the proposal on the site and the protected species within
- Determine whether the proposal is directly connected with, or necessary to, site management for conservation
- Find whether the proposal is likely to have a ‘significant’ effect on the site, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects
- Make an appropriate assessment of the implications (of the proposal) for the site in view of that site’s conservation objectives. Within this stage measure to mitigate or avoid effects through timing or other means can be identified
A ‘competent authority’ (usually a planning authority, though sometimes central government for larger schemes or other agencies such as the Environment Agency) can only agree to the proposal after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site.
When do I need to get in touch?
The requirement for undertaking a HRA is usually identified at an early stage in any project either through pre-planning advice, contents of local policies or direct communication with statutory nature conservation bodies or other statutory bodies.
Alternatively the combination of desk study and site assessment included in a Preliminary Ecological Assessment may identify the requirement to undertake an HRA. Investigating possible requirements for HRA at an early stage in any project is advised as the legislation protecting the Natura 2000 network is strong and there is a heavy focus on considering cumulative effects of other plans or projects.
How can EcoNorth help me?
We have extensive experience of undertaking HRA’s across England and Scotland on some complex sites. This experience is underpinned by our in depth knowledge of the relevant European Legislation. Together with our knowledge of the relevant habitats and species and in many cases close familiarity with the designated sites themselves, we provide robust advice on any likely significant effects on your site and how best to avoid and/or mitigate for these.