Legislation and policies – England
Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) (The Habitats Regulations)
The Habitat Regulations bring into English law the EC Habitats Directive and elements of the EU Wild Birds Directive, and provides for the designation and protection of ‘European sites’ (Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs)), the protection of ‘European species’ and the adaptation of planning and other control measures associated with the protection of European sites.
The Habitat Regulations additionally requires that the Habitat Regulations Assessment process be implemented where a project may impact a European site.
Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), under subsection 1(1), protects all wild birds, their nests and eggs. Under this legislation a person shall be guilty of an offence if they intentionally:
- kill, injure or take any wild bird,
- take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built; and
- take or destroy an egg of any wild bird.
It is an offence to intentionally disturb a species, listed under Schedule 1 of the Act, which is at, on, or near an active nest site. Those who intend to visit the nest of a species listed under Schedule 1 must first obtain a licence from the relevant statutory nature conservation organisation. Certain species are afforded special protection under Schedule 1 only during the close season (1 February – 31 August) but may be killed or taken outside this period. In England and Wales these are goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and pintail (Anas acuta).
In addition, the nests of certain species are afforded special protection at any time regardless of breeding status, these are: golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) and osprey (Pandion haliaetus).
Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006) (NERC Act)
The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 requires local and governmental authorities and departments to have regard to the conservation of biodiversity and a range of measures associated with public rights of way and other rural affairs.
Specific duties relating to the conservation of biodiversity are detailed in Section 40 while Section 41 details priority habitats and species for England.
National Planning Policy Framework 2019
The National Planning Policy Framework sets out the government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied. This includes requirements for the contribution to and enhancement of the natural environment, including habitats and biodiversity.
The National Planning Policy Framework should be followed when developing local plans for housing and other development and it is against these plans that planning permission must be determined.
Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (2017)
The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2017 governs the process of EIAs where granted planning permission under the Town and Country Planning Act. This legislation implements into English law the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.