Overview of HRA procedure
Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) is required when any plan or project, either alone or in combination with other plans or projects, is likely to have a significant effect on a designated ecological European site. European sites are defined as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designated under the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), or Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated under the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) (the codified version of Council Directive 79/409/EEC (as amended)). SACs and SPAs are collectively known as Natura 2000 sites.
The requirement to undertake a Habitats Regulations Assessment stems from Article 6, paragraphs (3) and (4) of the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), transposed into national [Northern Ireland] legislation by Articles 43 and 44 of The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 SR 380.
Habitats Regulations Assessment is a staged procedure, entailing up to four possible sequential stages. The assessment guidelines are set out in the publication ‘Assessment of plans and projects significantly affecting Natura 2000 sites’ (EC, November 2001).
Stage 1 - Screening
Stage 1 (otherwise termed a Test of Likely Significance) is a Screening process, which identifies the likely impacts upon a Natura 2000 site from a project or plan, either alone or in combination with other projects or plans, and considers whether these impacts are likely to be significant. If a straightforward ‘no significant effects’ cannot be concluded, then following the precautionary principle, a Stage 2 Appropriate Assessment is necessary.
Stage 2 - Appropriate Assessment
Stage 2 entails undertaking what is termed an ‘Appropriate Assessment’ (AA), which is the consideration of the impact on the integrity of the Natura 2000 site of the project or plan, either alone or in combination with other projects or plans, with respect to the site’s structure and function and its conservation objectives. Additionally, where there are adverse impacts, an assessment of the potential mitigation of those impacts is made. The Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB) Volume 11, Section 4, Part 1 HD 44/09 outlines how information collected and considered in relation to this stage of the assessment process, should culminate in the preparation of a statement to inform the appropriate assessment (SIAA). This draft document should then be used for consideration by the relevant Competent Authority (in this case the Department for Infrastructure) and stakeholder consultation. When all the relevant information has been carefully considered and assessed, then the Competent Authority can make a decision and make the ‘Appropriate Assessment’ as described in the Habitats Directive.
Stage 3 - Assessment of Alternative Solutions
Stage 3 is an Assessment of Alternative Solutions; the process which examines alternative ways of achieving the objectives of the project or plan, that avoid adverse impacts on the integrity of the Natura 2000 site.
Stage 4 - Assessment where no alternative solutions exist and where adverse impacts remain
Stage 4 is an Assessment where no alternative solutions exist and where adverse impacts remain. It is an assessment of compensatory measures where, in the light of an assessment of Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest (IROPI), it is deemed that the project or plan should proceed.
Assessment of the implications on European sites
- A6 Randalstown to Castledawson dualling – Stage 2 appropriate assessment October 2007 – Consultation document
- A6 Randalstown to Castledawson dualling – Stage 2 appropriate assessment July 2008 – Final issue
A6 Randalstown to Castledawson dualling – Stage 2 Appropriate Assessment Decision;
- Randalstown to Toome dualling – Departmental Statement – September 2009
- Randalstown to Toome dualling – Confirmed Order – March 2011
- Toome to Castledawson dualling - Confirmed Order - September 2009
- Toome to Castledawson dualling - Confirmed Order - March 2011
In consideration of all the commitments given, both as a result of the Public Inquiry, and within the documentation generated as part of the 2011 Statutory Orders and Environmental Statement and taking account of further survey data the Department completed a review of the July 2008 Appropriate Assessment to ensure that its conclusions and recommendations remained valid.
- A6 Randalstown to Castledawson dualling - Statement to inform the appropriate assessment November 2014
- A6 Randalstown to Castledawson dualling - Statement to inform the appropriate assessment August 2016
- A6 Toome to Castledawson dualling - Annaghmore Road / Bellshill junction at Castledawson Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA)
In late 2016 a Judicial Review as sought by a personal litigant. The review concluded the Department had acted both lawfully and rationally in complying with the Habitats Directive. The ruling of the court is available online at the Judiciary NI Website.
Updated: 23 May 2017