PPS 2: Planning and Nature Conservation
Statutory Framework: Policy on Designated Sites
24. The Directives require all Natural 2000 sites to be protected from deterioration or damage. Plans or projects likely to have a significant effect on the site must be assessed to decide whether the nature conservation interest would be damaged. If it would, the plan or project can only proceed where there is no alternative solution and where it must be carried out for imperative reasons of overriding public interest. Stricter criteria are applied where a site hosts a priority habitat or species (see para 41(c)).
25. The main amendments made by the Regulations are:
- To restrict the granting of planning permission for development which is likely to have a significant effect on a European site;
- To require the review of existing planning permissions which have not been fully implemented and which are likely to have a significant effect on a European site and if necessary, the taking of appropriate action, such as modification or, exceptionally, revocation of a planning permission;
- To prevent the Planning (General Development) Order (NI) 1993 (the GDO) granting permitted development rights which will adversely affect the integrity of a European site;
- To prevent other existing and future development orders, and enterprise zone schemes and any future simplified planning zone schemes, from granting permission for development which is likely to have a significant effect on a European site.
26. The Habitats Regulations apply to classified SPAs, and to SACs, only from the time when the Commission and the Government agree the area as a Site of Community Importance to be designated as an SAC. However, as a matter of policy, the Government wishes development proposals affecting all possible European sites to be considered in the same way, ie, as if they had already been designated. The Government has also chosen to apply the same considerations to sites listed under the Ramsar Convention3.
27. There is no intention to exclude human activities from European and Ramsar Sites. The aim is to ensure that those activities are undertaken in ways which do not harm or threaten the nature conservation interest. Sensitive step by step consultation with all concerned is important to ensure co-operation and commitment to the protection of these areas. The Department has begun a long term consultation programme which will continue during the process of European and Ramsar site selection and designation.
28. Further details regarding the legislative framework and the types of designation are given in Annex 2.
3 A wetland site of international importance, listed under the Ramsar Convention (see Annex 1).