Appropriate Assessment/Natura Impact Assessment Services
What is Appropriate Assessment and when is it needed?
Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive requires that:
‘Any plan or project not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site but likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects, shall be subject to appropriate assessment of its implications for the site in view of the site’s conservation objectives. In the light of the conclusions of the assessment of the implications for the site and subject to the provisions of Paragraph 4 of the Directive, the competent national authorities shall agree to the plan or project only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site concerned and, if appropriate, after having obtained the opinion of the general public.’
And Article 6(4) of the Habitats Directive requires that:-
‘If, in spite of a negative assessment of the implications for the site and in the absence of alternative solutions, a plan or project must nevertheless be carried out for imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of social or economic nature, the Member State shall take all compensatory measures necessary to ensure that the overall coherence of Natura 2000 is protected. It shall inform the Commission of the compensatory measures adopted.’
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 (DEHLG) 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 DEHLG 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 Statement for AA. This Statement of AA 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.