Amendments to the 2012 conservation of habitats and species regulations

Posted by Cain Blythe - CEnv MIEMA MIEEM MSc BSc (Hons) on 8/11/2012

As of 16th August 2012, the regulations concerning the protection of habitats and species of wild birds have changed. The aim of the amendments to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 is “To help preserve, maintain and re-establish habitats for wild birds.”

This remit is aimed at a number of statutory bodies, including Natural England, the Countryside Council for Wales, the Environment Agency and the Forestry Commission. It also applies to local authorities, national park authorities, and any public body to protect and create bird habitat. The idea is to clarify the legislation covering habitats and protected species and to ensure that the regulations are consistent across the board.

It also requires that assessments take place when new project proposals and/or planning applications are submitted affecting wild birds and their habitats, with reviews properly conducted before any consent is given. The regulations have been amended to ensure that wild bird habitats and species are properly considered and protected.

The amendments target species areas, for example 129A has been established to encourage Welsh Ministers and the Secretary of State to put more emphasis on any research or scientific project that promotes the preservation of wild birds. This includes issuing people with Special Conservation Orders insisting that environmental concerns are included in any proposed site project that could potentially disturb suitable habitat for wild bird populations.

Whilst these amendments appear to be minor, they are necessary to update the legislation and regulations in line with ever changing environments and requirements. Under these amendments it is possible that works on a project may have to cease if it is considered likely that a protected habitat or species will be significantly affected. The guidelines are pretty clear on this- if a proposed project may defy any agreements under these guidelines then land might be compulsorily purchased in order to prevent any unnecessary harm to the immediate environment or the species themselves.

In short, anyone who is involved within the planning process or research, whether an architect, contractor or builder, these amendments are worth considering, particularly if wild bird populations or habitats are involved  to ensure that projects adhere to the relevant legislation.