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Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland
Regional Planning Policies: Policy CON 1 Areas of Nature Conservation Importance

Policy CON 1 Areas of Nature Conservation Importance
This policy has been superseded by: PPS 2-Natural Heritage
To prevent development which would adversely affect areas of nature conservation importance.
The conservation and enhancement of the natural environment will be encouraged and promoted. Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs), National Nature Reserves (NNRs) and Nature Reserves (NRs) will be protected and development likely to adversely affect them will not normally be permitted. Development which would adversely affect other defined areas of nature conservation importance will also not normally be permitted.
Some sites are particularly important because what they exemplify is rare and irreplaceable; such features of scientific, educational or research interest, once destroyed, cannot be recreated. Others are important as representative examples of their type on a local, national or international scale. Designated sites will, as far as possible, be protected from damage or destruction.
The designation of sites does not form part of the development plan process. Some sites may be referred to in the text of plans or may be indicated on maps for information purposes. Others will not be publicised in order to protect the fragile interests in them.
Designated sites made under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands Order 1985 include:
  • National Nature Reserves - sites of national and sometimes international importance usually managed by the Department's Environment Service or by agreement with a voluntary conservation body;
  • Nature Reserves - sites of regional importance including sites particularly appropriate for educational, research or public information purposes;
  • Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) - land which in the Department's opinion is of special interest by reason of any of its flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features;
  • Marine Nature Reserves - inter-tidal or sub-littoral areas established for the conservation or study of areas of marine flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest.
Under the terms of the Wildlife Order 1985, Wildlife Refuges may be established in locations where some particular aspect of the fauna or flora requires a degree of special protection from disturbance.
In considering proposals for development affecting a designated site, the potential damage to species, opportunities for alternative siting or potential mitigating measures, the possibilities for replacement sites, opportunities to enhance nature conservation and the regional importance of the proposal, will be taken into account.
Development outside, but close to, the boundaries of a protected site may have serious repercussions within it, even to the point of destroying its scientific value. Wetlands (including marshes and estuaries as well as rivers and lakes) are particularly vulnerable to the effects of drainage, alterations to the water-table, water-borne pollution and other developments within catchment areas. In considering applications in such locations, the Department will bear in mind the possible threats.
The Government attaches great importance to the various international obligations it has assumed and which now underlie the legislative framework for conservation. The relevant international measures include:
  • the Ramsar Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands of International Importance especially as Natural Habitat;
  • the European Community Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (791409EEC).
  • the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats;
  • the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals;
  • EC Directive on the Assessment of the Effects of certain public and private projects on the Environment (851337EEC);
  • the World Heritage Convention;
  • the Biodiversity Convention; and
  • the European Community Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Flora and Fauna (92143lEEC).
In many cases the Department will fulfil the international obligations through the process of statutory site designation. Other obligations are more wide ranging and the Department will take due account of all the intemational obligations in the general processing of planning applications.
The Department will bear in mind its commitment to the wise use of wetlands in considering any application relating to any wetland site, whether or not the site is listed under the Ramsar Convention.
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