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Habitats regulations review

Backlit reeds

Image: Miemo Penttinen

In his Autumn Statement 2010, the Chancellor George Osborne announced a review of the way that two important pieces of European wildlife law are put into practice in England.

The Habitats and Birds Directives (often collectively called the Nature Directives) have been in place for decades and apply to all EU countries. Together they form one of our most fundamental means of protecting special places.

The results of this review are of the utmost importance for wildlife in England. We are doing everything we can to make sure nature's voice is heard. We have made five submissions of evidence, which you can download from this page (below).

Our main messages for government are:

1. The Habitats and Birds Directives have provided valuable protection for Europe's most threatened habitats and species for over 30 years; they are arguably the two most important mechanisms for embedding the value of nature in decision-making. Their effective implementation provides a key test for sustainable development, and is fundamental to meeting our national and international biodiversity commitments.

2. We have found no evidence of gold-plating in the transposition of the Directives into English law; in fact, transposition is incomplete. 

3. The vast majority of planning applications are unaffected by the Directives, and very few of those that are result in objections relating to them. For example, we have commented on less than 0.04 per cent of all planning applications in England between 2001-2010 (c.217 per year), with very few of these resulting in us objecting.

4. However, in a small proportion of cases there are flaws in putting the law into practice mostly associated with data and evidence gaps, lack of clarity or engagement in process and lack of competence and/or capacity in relevant organisations.

5. We have recommended the following ways in which putting the Directives into practice could be improved with win-win benefits for nature conservation and streamlined development:

  • Filling gaps in evidence so that those making decisions about proposed developments needn't be forced into taking overly cautious approaches in the absence of information, but are able to make decisions based on sound evidence.
  • Making sure that all of England's special places are covered by appropriate protection. For example, at sea virtually none of the areas marine wildlife depend upon are established as protected areas, which causes problems for wildlife and industry alike.
  • Building specialist capacity and expertise within decision-making bodies and industry. For example, those industries we have been working with for many years now have a much improved understanding of the process and conflict is rare.

How you can help

Help us ensure this review does not undermine protection for special places. Urge the Chancellor to use his Budget statement to put the environment at the heart of the UK's economic recovery

RSPB 1st submission to Defra HRR - introduction and key context

RSPB 1st submission to Defra HRR - introduction and key context

664Kb, PDF

The RSPB submitted evidence to Defra's review of the implementation of the Habitats Directive in England in separate modules. This first submission sets wider context points for the review and an introduction to the form of our submissions.

Date: 25 January 2012

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RSPB 2nd submission to Defra HRR - Case study commentary and analysis

RSPB 2nd submission to Defra HRR - Case study commentary and analysis

736Kb, PDF

This second submission to Defra's review of the implementation of the Habitats Directive in England sets out 50 case studies where we have been involved with implementation, with overarching commentary and analysis.

Date: 6 February 2012

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RSPB 3rd submission to Defra HRR - European Literature Review

RSPB 3rd submission to Defra HRR - European Literature Review

2.36Mb, PDF

This third submission to Defra's review of the implementation of the Habitats Directive in England is a literature review of implementation of the Directive in devolved administrations and the rest of the EU.

Date: 6 February 2012

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RSPB 4th submission to Defra HRR - EcoNat Findings

RSPB 4th submission to Defra HRR - EcoNat Findings

273Kb, PDF

This fourth submission to Defra's review of the implementation of the Habitats Directive in England is a compendium of conclusions drawn from peer-exchange and seminars meetings held by the EcoNat2000 network. The network held a series of topic-specific peer exchanges and seminars between 2007 and 2010, bringing together experts and experienced practitioners in the field of development affecting Natura 2000 and European Protected Species (EPS) from across a number of Member States to compare approaches, identify shared problems and highlight best practice in application of the Birds and Habitats Directives.

Date: 10 February 2012

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RSPB 5th submission to Defra HRR - Ecosystems

RSPB 5th submission to Defra HRR - Ecosystems

135Kb, PDF

This brief fifth submission to Defra's review of the implementation of the Habitats Directive in England, contains a few headline points about ecosystem services and the Directive, in response to one of Defra's Challenge Panels on the issue.

Date: 17 February 2012

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