A Habitat Regulations Assessment is an appraisal of whether, and to what extent, a development has the potential to result in a negative effect upon the integrity of a wildlife reserve that is legally protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (often referred to as the ‘Habitats Regulations’).

Two types of sites are included in this process, comprising:

Special Protection Areas (SPA), which are classified under Council Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds (often referred to as the ‘Birds Directive’) and
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), which are designated under Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (often referred to as the ‘Habitats Directive’).

The Habitats Regulations compel the ‘Competent Authorities’, which include the Mineral Planning Authority and the relevant Statutory Body (i.e. Natural England, Natural Resources Wales etc.) to assess whether there are grounds to predict the permitting of a development might have a negative effect upon an SPA or SAC.

In the context of a quarry development, such an effect might be caused by dust deposition, de-watering, vibration and noise, and even incidentally, such as the realignment of a footpath taking more people and dogs into an SPA / SAC with the knock-on effect of erosion, littering and dogs disturbing ground-nesting birds, or dog-muck having a damaging effect upon vegetation. The Habitats Regulations Assessment is in two parts, which comprise:

A ‘likely significance test’ and
An Appropriate Assessment

The likely significance test is a formal screening assessment of the risks the development proposed might have a significant effect upon the integrity of the SPA / SAC. If the possibility of a significant effect cannot be ruled-out, a detailed and evidence-led Appropriate Assessment is performed to identify exactly what will cause the effect and exactly what the effect might be.

If the effects identified cannot be removed or mitigated so as to remove (within the reasonable limits) the risk the development might have a negative effect upon the integrity of the SPA / SAC, then the development may only be granted permission if the developer can demonstrate there are imperative reasons of over-riding public interest (the so-called IROPI test) and if satisfactory compensatory measures that are proven to be effective, can be secured to offset the damage done.

While demonstrating over-riding public interest is out of our remit, AEcol have been collecting, collating and providing evidence to the Competent Authorities on behalf of quarry operators for well over a decade. This evidence enables the Authorities to make an informed decision at the screening stage. Where further investigation is required to inform an Appropriate Assessment, we can also design the studies required to provide the necessary evidence, and to inform effective mitigation.

If you have a particular project in mind, or are simply curious to understand Habitats Regulations Assessment process in the context of your business, why not send us a message.

We look forward to hearing from you!