All plans and projects must now be screened for 'appropriate assessment' under Article 6 of the Habitats Directive. This will determine whether 'significant effects' are likely to result to the integrity of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection Areas (SPA) (collectively known as the Natura 2000 network). These are areas designated under either the Habitats or Birds Directives for the conservation of our most threatened habitats or species. About 12% of Ireland's land area is now covered by these designations.
While it is the responsibility of the Local Authority in planning matters to carry out the final assessment developers are frequently required to provide a Natura Impact Statement that provides the necessary information.
OPENFIELD has carried out dozens of Natura Impact Statements and screening reports for appropriate assessment since this regulation was clarified in Irish law in 2007. Projects frequently feature small developments such as one-off houses, but OPENFIELD has also worked with the Limerick Regeneration Agency on assessing their Masterplans which are sensitively located close to the Lower River Shannon SAC. I have also worked on Local Area Plans and County Development Plans in Wexford and Kilkenny.