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Natura site protection

How are Natura sites protected in Scotland?

In Scotland Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are given legal protection by the Habitats Regulations. The Habitats Regulations ensure that any plan or project that may damage a Natura site - for example, a proposed development or an activity requiring a license - is first assessed and can only go ahead if certain strict conditions are met. This procedure is known as Habitats Regulations Appraisal, part of which is called 'appropriate assessment'. SACs and SPAs have a high level of protection because they are designated for habitats and species of European importance, but this does not mean that proposals are always turned down. In fact, most developments and activities which affect Natura sites can be modified so that they do not conflict with the special interest of these protected areas.

Who is responsible for protecting SACs and SPAs?

Through the Habitats Directive, the European Union places certain obligations on Member States. Where Natura sites are concerned, these include avoiding deterioration of their qualifying habitats, and significant disturbance to their qualifying species. As such, we all have a part to play in conserving the special nature of these protected areas. In particular, any organisation or body that proposes to authorise a proposal or give consent to an activity that may affect a Natura site must first carry out an appraisal under the Habitats Regulations. These 'competent authorities' include Scottish Ministers, local authorities, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, the Forestry Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage, and many others.

Last updated on Tuesday 23rd February 2016 at 11:47 AM. Click here to comment on this page