Explore our obligations safeguarding sites and managing nature designations on an international level.
EC Council Directives on the Conservation of Wild Birds (79/409/EEC)
Under this Directive, the UK has accepted a commitment to take 'the requisite measures to preserve, maintain or re-establish a sufficient diversity and area of habitat' for 'all species of naturally occurring birds in the wild state'.
Over and above this, the UK is committed to taking special measures to conserve the habitats of certain rare or vulnerable species as well as all regularly occurring migratory species. Conservation measures include the designation of suitable areas as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and procedures to protect these from damaging developments. Since the passage of the Habitats Directive, these procedures are the same as for SACs.
EC Council Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (92/43/EEC)
Member States have agreed to establish a European network of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) which would maintain at, or restore to, a favourable conservation status the habitats and species of Community importance listed in annexes to the Directive.
The Directive includes procedures to protect SACs from damaging developments. Proposed developments not directly connected with or necessary to site management, which are likely to have a significant effect on an SAC or an SPA, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects, should be assessed according to their implications for the sites conservation objectives. The development may go ahead if, as a result of that assessment, it is found that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site.
If the assessment shows there will be a negative effect, the scheme may only be allowed if there is no alternative solution and if there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature. In such instances, Member States must take compensatory measures to preserve the overall coherence of the Natura 2000 (SPA/SAC) network.
For some habitats and species at particular risk, the tests of public interest are even more stringent.
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Iran 1971)
The UK, as a contracting party to this Convention, has accepted responsibility to promote the conservation of wetlands of international significance within its territory.
There is an obligation for contracting parties to list and protect qualifying wetlands as Ramsar sites and to implement their land-use planning so as to promote the wise use of all wetlands.
Sites are included mainly for their important populations of wintering waterfowl as well as hydrological, zoological and botanical importance.