Legislation and policies – Wales

National legislation

Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended) (The Habitats Regulations)

The Habitat Regulations bring into Welsh 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).

Environment (Wales) Act 2016

The Environment (Wales) Act supersedes Welsh provisions previously detailed in sections 40 and 42 of the NERC Act (2006).

The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 makes requirements for more sustainable and pro-active planning and management of natural resources within Wales. Part 1 of this legislation relates to the sustainable management of natural resources and, within this, Section 7 requires identification of species and habitats in Wales which are regarded as of ‘principal importance’ to maintain and enhance biodiversity. 

Well-being of Future Generations Act (2015)

The Well-being of Future Generations Act requires public bodies in Wales to think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change.

Planning Policies

The Planning Policy Wales sets out the land use planning policies of the Welsh Government. The primary purpose of this policy is to ensure that the planning system contributes towards the delivery of sustainable development and improves the social, economic environmental and cultural well-being of Wales as required by Welsh legislation.

Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Wales) Regulations 2017

The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Wales) Regulations governs the process of EIAs where granted planning permission. This legislation implements into Welsh law the EU Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.