What is Appropriate Assessment?
The EU Habitats Directive requires an ‘Appropriate Assessment’ (AA) to be carried out where a plan or project is likely to have a significant impact on a Natura 2000 site. Natura 2000 sites include Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Appropriate Assessment is referred to in Articles 6(3) and 6(4) of the EU Habitats Directive. Guidelines on AA were launched by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DoEHLG) in December 2009.
How is an Appropriate Assessment Conducted?
There are a number of steps in the AA process, including Screening, which establishes whether a plan or project could have significant effects on a Natura 2000 site, on its own or in combination with other plans or projects. If there is potential for impact, the next step, or full Appropriate Assessment, is undertaken. If the AA concludes that there will be no adverse effects on the integrity of a Natura 2000 site, the consent authority can proceed and decide to grant or refuse permission under the planning or other relevant process. If adverse effects are possible, the project or plan can only proceed where there are Imperative Reasons of Over-riding Public Interest (IROPI) and other alternatives are not applicable.
Who Conducts Appropriate Assessment?
Recent Guidance on AA by the DoEHLG state that it is the responsibility of the competent authority (or consent authority) to undertake AA. This will be completed based on information submitted by the proponent of the plan or project, in the form of a Natura Impact Statement. This Natura Impact Statement must be prepared by an ecological specialist with input from other experts e.g. hydrologists or engineers as necessary.
What Types of Development Require Appropriate Assessment?
Any development which has the potential to impact on a designated SAC or SPA must be screened for AA. The terminology ‘plan or project’ must be given a very broad interpretation and can include development applications, development plans, local area plans, waste, discharge and other operational licenses and permits. A zone of impact of 15km has been recommended for plans, with a lesser distance (<100m) for projects, although this must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
What are implications of Appropriate Assessment?
Seek advice early in relation to any proposed plan or project to ascertain whether AA will apply or not. Where sites are close to an SAC or SPA, assume that an AA will be required. Due to time restrictions on some types of survey work it is best to complete the ecological survey work prior to submitting any application.
To see if you site is effected by the above guidelines contact us or check your site here.
If you would like to view the Appropriate Assessment Guidelines in full please click here.
If you would like to view the European Appropriate Assessment Guidelines in full please click here.