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).
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.