BSG Ecology has expertise in the provision of advice concerning Irish projects that have the potential to impact on the Natura 2000 network. We can also provide a range of written outputs to inform the Appropriate Assessment (AA) process, including AA Screening Reports and Natura Impact Statements (NIS), and have evaluated potential issues resulting from various proposed developments including energy, residential and minerals extraction schemes.
The Legal Basis for AA
Under Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive an AA must be undertaken for any plan or project that is not directly connected with the management of a Natura 2000 site and that is likely to have a significant effect on its integrity. The process is divided into stages with the first two stages being most commonly required. The first stage is ‘Screening’ and involves identification of potential impacts and the likelihood of significant effects arising from a proposed plan or project. If significant effects are uncertain or likely then the project or plan will proceed to the second stage ‘Appropriate Assessment’.
This second (AA) stage considers the impacts of the proposed plan or project on the integrity of the Natura 2000 site with respect to the conservations objections of the site and to its structure and function.
The AA process in the UK is known as Habitats Regulation Assessment and is the subject of a separate capability statement.
Our experience of AA spans a diverse range of European sites, including those that have been designated for birds, fish, mammals and the habitats they support. We have prepared AA reports for projects ranging from single house developments to quarries, anaerobic digesters, power lines and large wind farm developments. Potential impacts that we have been required to consider include habitat loss, aerial and aquatic pollution, disturbance, hydrological effects and dust deposition.
When preparing AA reports we are able to draw upon our collective and wide-ranging expertise across the eight offices of the practice. This means that our work is well supported and robust. Our approach typically involves:
- Early engagement with statutory consultees and competent authorities.
- 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 measures to mitigate impacts to an acceptable level.
In certain circumstances the sensitivities of the qualifying species and habitats of European site mean that specialist studies are required to inform the assessment. In addition to our available in-house staff resource, we also have a large network of trusted sub-contractors that we can draw upon to provide specialist data that may be required, such as terrestrial or aquatic invertebrates, fish, lichens or mosses. In this way we are able to deliver a very high standard of work in an area that is necessarily subject to the most intense scrutiny.
We also provide help and support to our clients in the preparation of Ecology chapters for Environmental Impact Statements (EIS), the preparation of supporting documentation for planning applications, planning compliance, and due diligence. The preparation of an AA screening and Natura Impact Statement can frequently be required alongside the preparation of an Ecology chapter for an EIS, and we have the expertise to distinguish between the different procedural requirements for each and present them accordingly. Project examples and professional references can be provided on request.
Garinish Island (Ilnacullin), situated in the harbour of Glengarriff in Bantry Bay, County Cork is famous for its gardens, maintained by the Office of Public Works (OPW). They are a popular tourist attraction and although the estate had been maintained, Bryce House (built in 1912) had fallen into disrepair, and extensive restoration has been required to allow it to be opened to the general public. Two Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) lie within 650 m of the island and this led to a requirement to consider whether the restoration work would be likely to have an effect on these sites, which is the first step in the Appropriate Assessment process. BSG Ecology prepared the Appropriate Assessment Screening Report for the redevelopment project.
BSG Ecology was commissioned by ORS Consulting Engineers to prepare Appropriate Assessment screening reports for Anaerobic Digestion (AD) facilities in Counties Kildare, Westmeath, Meath and Dublin, Ireland.
The proposals concerned the development of anaerobic digestion facilities to process a variety of products including foodstuffs beyond their ‘sell by’ dates, domestic (brown bin) food and agricultural waste. Each facility will produce a digestate to be used as organic fertiliser. Rainwater harvesting systems will be employed at all of the anaerobic digestion facilities to reduce their water demand.
BSG Ecology was commissioned by Carrownaweelaun Energy Limited to prepare an Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA) and an Appropriate Assessment Screening Report for 8.7 km of 10 kV overhead electricity line between Carrownaweelaun 20 kV sub-station and Kilkee sub-station, Co. Clare, Ireland.
The reports were submitted in support of an application for declaration of the electricity line as exempted development (from planning permission) under Section 5 of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (as amended).