PPS 2: Planning and Nature Conservation
Statutory Framework: International Obligations: Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
20. The Habitats Directive lists those habitats and species which the Commission considers are particularly threatened at the European level, and for which a number of SACs must be selected across their total geographical range. Those habitats and species at greatest risk have been further identified as priority habitats or species, and Member States must provide for their declaration as SACs. On land, the selection of potential SACs in Northern Ireland, within the habitats and species targeted by the Directive, has been made from existing or proposed ASSIs. The Directive lists a range of habitats and species in the marine environment for which alternative methods of conservation will have to be implemented, as coastal ASSIs do not extend beyond the low water mark.
21. On land, both SPAs will already have been declared as ASSIs. Coastal ASSIs do not extend beyond low water mark, and so provision for marine SPAs and SACs will be implemented through other means. The Habitats Regulations (see paragraph14(d)) provide for the designation of SACs in accordance with Habitats Directive and apply the specific provisions of the Directive to future SACs and to existing and future SPAs.
22. On the basis of the site selection criteria set out in the Birds and Habitats Directives, which include sites in a wide range of habitats including small lakes, upland and lowland peatlands, estuaries and sand dune systems, a number of sites have been declared or proposed as SPAs. In the case of the latter, the EC has to complete its assessment of all proposals by June 1998, following which it will inform the UK Government of those sites to go forward as Sites of Community Importance (SCIs). The UK Government then has a period of six years within which it must designate all of these SCIs as SACs. Lists of those areas proposed for inclusion in the Natura 2000 network are found in Annex 3.
23. It is likely that some sites will merit designation as both an SPA and an SAC. Although sites will be designated under the provisions of one or other Directive, the same planning policies and practice will apply, whether the site is an SPA or an SAC. Information about these areas is available from the Environment and Heritage Service 2.
2 Environment and Heritage Service, Commonwealth House, 35 Castle Street, BELFAST, BT1 1GU