Habitats regulations

Under the Habitats Regulations, we must consider whether any proposed forestry plan or project will have a significant effect on a European site before we give authorisation. This process is known as a Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA).

What is the purpose of HRA? 

The purpose of the HRA:

When does HRA apply? 

HRA applies to European sites considered as:

  • Special Protection Areas (SPA) classified under the Birds Directive
  • Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) classified under the Habitats Directive and ‘candidate’ SAC

For a proposal to potentially affect a site, there has to be a link or connection between the qualifying interests of the site and the changes that a proposal may cause. 

It's not possible to produce a list of plans or projects that must always be subject to appraisal and those that will not. Neither the European Commission Directives or the Habitats Regulations define the scope of either plan or project by reference to particular categories. Instead, the key limiting factor is whether a plan or project could undermine the conservation objectives of the qualifying features for which the site was classified.

European sites across Scotland 

SiteLink provides access to information on European sites. You can view:

  • site boundaries
  • qualifying interests
  • conservation objectives
  • consultation cases
  • site management agreements 
  • site conditions and download supporting documents

Appropriate assessment  

Where there's a likely significant effect we cannot approve a proposal unless it can be shown beyond reasonable scientific doubt by means of ‘appropriate assessment’ that it will not adversely affect the integrity of a European site. 

For the purposes of the assessment, we must formally consult NatureScot before a decision is made.

Approval for plans or projects  

Any person applying to us for authorisation, which we consider is likely to have a significant effect on a European site, must provide the information we need for the purposes of our appraisal. 

If there remains uncertainty that a proposal will adversely affect the integrity of a European site, authorisation will not be granted. The proposal will then be returned to the applicant for revision until we can establish, with certainty, that there will be no adverse effect on the European site.

Public participation

The Habitats Regulations also state, where appropriate, we should take the opinion of the public. To do this, we publish details of the proposed plan or project on our public registers.