Habitats Regulations Assessments (HRA)
The Habitats Directive (together with the
Birds Directive) forms the foundation for Europe’s nature
conservation policy. The Directive creates two main areas of
protection, the Natura 2000 network of protected sites and a strict
system of species protection.
The Natura 2000 Network is made up of Special Areas of
Conservation (SAC) which host rare, endangered and vulnerable
habitats and species of European importance, Special Protection
Areas (SPA) which support significant wild birds and their habitats
and European Offshore Marine Sites (EOMS).
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.
The Habitats Directive
Embedded within Article 6 (3) and (4) of the Habitats Directive
is the requirement for the assessment of plans and projects likely
to have significant effects on European Sites.
The Habitats Directive is brought into effect in Wales (and
England) by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations
2010 (as amended) which also transposes the Directive’s requirement
to undertake assessment for both projects and plans.
A plan or project cannot be given effect or consented unless it
can be determined that it would not have an adverse effect on the
integrity of European Sites or, where there are no alternative
solutions, there are Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public
Interest and compensatory measures are secured to ensure the
coherence of the Natura 2000 network. Any plan or project which has
the potential to affect a European Site, no matter how far away
from that site, should be considered.
Advice and guidance
The Countryside Council for Wales has a crucial role, as the
‘relevant nature conservation body’ within the Habitats Regulations
Assessment process. We should be formally consulted on all
proposals which require HRA and can provide advice and guidance on
the potential effects of plans, projects and developments on the
European Sites within Wales and its coastal waters.
Within CCW, Habitats Regulations Assessment of plans and major
infrastructure projects is led by the Strategic Policy Group to
whom any queries should be directed in the first instance. Queries
regarding Habitats Regulations Assessment of other projects should
be made to the relevant CCW Regional Offices.