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Richard Collingridge

Main law and government guidance dealing with nature conservation designations in Britain

  • The Birds Directive: Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds. Requires designation and protection of Special Protection Areas for birds (SPAs) by European Union member states.
  • The Habitats and Species Directive (often called the Habitats Directive): Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. Requires designation and protection of Special Areas for Conservation (SACs) by European Union member states.
  • The Habitats Regulations: The Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations 1994. Implements the Habitats Directive in UK law, protecting SPAs and SACs as European Sites. European Sites above Mean Low Water are normally also notified as SSSIs by country agencies (in England, English Nature).
  • PPG9: Planning Policy Guidance: Nature Conservation. Department of the Environment (DoE, now part of DETR) October 1994. Sets out how planning authorities are to deal with nature conservation.
  • The Ramsar Convention: The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat. Named after Ramsar in Iran where it was established on 2 April 1971. Undertakes designation and protection of Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites) by signatories (most countries of the world).
  • The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended 1985. Requires country agencies (English Nature, Countryside Council for Wales or Scottish Natural Heritage) to notify SSSIs to the Secretary of State, Planning Authorities, Local Land Charges and owners and occupiers of the land. There is similar legislation in Northern Ireland. The WCA also covers Marine Nature Reserves, as well as species protection and various countryside issues.
  • The Water Resources Act 1994 (replacing the Water Act 1989 and previous Acts). Requires country agencies to notify SSSIs to the Environment Agency. There are similar Acts for SSSI notification to other statutory water bodies.
  • The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. This introduced SSSIs, which are now covered instead by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (see above). It also allows the declaration of land as statutory Local or National Nature Reserves, and dealt with landscape and public access issues.
  • Development Plans. Every part of the country has a Development Plan under the Town and Country Planning Acts (various dates). These plans consist of a strategic part and a more detailed part. In areas covered by county councils, there is a county-level Strategic Plan and district- or borough-level Local Plans. In unitary planning authority areas there is one document, the Unitary Development Plan. Together with national law and government guidance, the development plan controls the policies of planning authorities on development. There is public consultation on the content of the various plans, but once adopted, it is the main thing which determines whether a particular development will be permitted or not.

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