BSG Ecology has expertise in the provision of advice to schemes that have the potential to impact upon Natura 2000 sites (SACs and SPAs). We can provide HRA Screening and Appropriate Assessment reports and have previously dealt with issues including habitat loss, deposition, disturbance, and hydrological effects on interest features including birds, fauna and botanical assemblages.

Overview

BSG Ecology has worked on projects that have presented significant technical challenges because of their potential impacts on Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Ramsar sites.  Because of their importance these sites are subject to the highest levels of legal and policy protection, and for this reason any plan or project that has the potential to impact on them is subject to the highest level of scrutiny. BSG Ecology has also provided HRA Screening and Appropriate Assessment reports for draft Local Plans and Spatial Strategies.

The Legal Basis for HRA

Under Regulation 61 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) there is a legal requirement to consider the impacts of a plan or project on a European site.  In this context the term ‘plan or project’ includes planning strategies, development plans, development proposals or anything else that could impact on the integrity of a European site.

The legislation requires that an ‘appropriate assessment’ is carried out for plans or project that are likely to have a significant effect on a European site.  This process requires detailed consideration of the potential for the plan or project, taking account of the mitigation proposed, to affect the conservation objectives of the site(s) concerned, if further stages in the HRA process (which many proposals are unlikely to be able to satisfy) are to be avoided.

The whole assessment process is often referred to as a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) in England and Wales or a Habitats Regulations Appraisal in Scotland (the Habitats Regulations process is different in Ireland, and is the subject of a separate capability statement).

Project Experience

BSG Ecology has carried out numerous Habitats Regulations Assessments, the results of which have been used to demonstrate to relevant authorities that adverse effects on European sites can be avoided. This includes work on development plans, masterplans, recreational projects, quarries, infrastructure projects and housing developments.

Our experience also covers a diverse range of European sites, including those that have been designated for birds, fish, mammals (including otter and bats) and a range of habitats.

Our Approach

When carrying out HRAs we are able to draw upon the wide-ranging expertise and experience of our team.  This results in robust outputs, which provide consultees confidence in the assessment process and its outcomes.  Our approach typically involves:

  • Early consultation with key stakeholders;
  • Identification and appreciation of site sensitivities;
  • Identification of the full range of impact mechanisms, both direct and indirect;
  • Evaluation of impact significance;
  • Identification of pragmatic mitigation measures;
  • Delivery of positive assessment outcomes.

In certain circumstances specialist studies are required to inform the assessment.  In addition in house staff, we also have a large network of approved subcontractors that we can draw upon to provide specialist data as required, such as for fresh water pearl mussel, tentacled lagoon worm and fish.

Related Services

Other services we provide include the completion of Ecological Impact Assessments and the preparation of Ecology chapters for Environmental Statements (ES), on-site and desk based support for the discharge of planning conditions, application for mitigation and conservation licences for European Protected Species, and undertaking external technical reviews of EIAs and EcIAs on behalf of developers and local authorities.  We can also provide experienced expert witnesses for public inquiry.

The preparation of an HRA can frequently be required alongside the preparation of an Ecology chapter for an ES, and we have the expertise to distinguish between the different procedural requirements for each and present them accordingly.