In line with legislative requirements a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) should be undertaken as an iterative project throughout a strategy review process where the Strategy (taking account of the proposed Strategy adjustments) is likely to have an adverse effect on any designated Natura 2000 sites. The Department wishes to appoint consultants to undertake this requirement in respect of the review of the RDS and the RTS.
The purpose of a Habitats Regulations Assessment is to assess the impacts of a land-use plan against the conservation objectives of designated Natura 2000 sites and to ascertain whether the plan is likely to adversely affect site integrity. Where likely significant negative effects are identified, the precautionary principle will apply and alternative options and mitigation measures will be identified.
Within the context of the Habitats Regulations, European sites consist of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designated under the Regulations and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated under the related EC Birds Directive. Together SACs and SPAs are referred to as Natura 2000 sites.