Appropriate Assessment Screening Reports and Natura Impact Statements:
With the introduction of the Birds Directive in 1979 and the Habitats Directive in 1992 came the obligation to establish the Natura 2000 network of sites of highest biodiversity importance for rare and threatened habitats and species across the EU. In Ireland, the Natura 2000 network of European sites comprises Special Areas of Conservation (SACs, including candidate SACs), and Special Protection Areas (SPAs, including proposed SPAs).
The obligation to undertake Appropriate Assessment (AA) derives from Article 6(3) and 6(4) of the Habitats Directive, and both involve a number of steps and tests that need to be applied in sequential order. AA is not a prohibition on new development or activities but involves a case-by-case examination of the implications for the Natura 2000 site and its conservation objectives. In general terms, implicit in Article 6(3) is an obligation to put concern for potential effects on Natura 2000 sites at the forefront of every decision made in relation to plans and projects at all stages, including decisions to provide funding or other support.
The first test is to establish whether, in relation to a particular plan or project, appropriate assessment is required, this is termed AA screening. Its purpose is to determine, on the basis of a preliminary assessment and objective criteria, whether a plan or project, alone and in combination with other plans or projects, could have significant effects on a Natura 2000 site in view of the site’s conservation objectives. The need to apply the precautionary principle in making any key decisions in relation to the tests of AA has been confirmed by European Court of Justice case law. Therefore, where significant effects are likely, uncertain or unknown at screening stage, AA will be required.
NIS is a focused and detailed impact assessment of the implications of the plan or project, alone and in combination with other plans and projects, on the integrity of a Natura 2000 site in view of its conservation objectives. There is no prescribed method for undertaking AA, or form or content for reporting. Case law has established that assessments should be undertaken on the basis of the best scientific evidence and methods. Accordingly, data and information on the project and on the site and an analysis of potential effects on the site must be obtained and presented in a Natura Impact Statement (NIS). It is the responsibility of the proponent of the plan or project to have the NIS prepared for submission to the competent authority, i.e. the consent authority.
Greentrack have extensive experience in the Appropiate Assessment Screening process and the preparation of Natura Impact Statements. When necessary, we will consult with the NPWS to establish a feasible approach to each individual proposal.