Defra Review of the Habitats and Birds Directives

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has announced a review of the implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives in the UK. Following the announcement of the review by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons, Defra have released details of the scope of the consultation, which will publish conclusions by the date of the 2012 budget, in March.

The purpose of the review is to assess: ‘the Habitats and Wild Bird Directives as currently implemented in England by the Habitats Regulations and Offshore Marine Conservation Regulations, focussing in particular on those obligations that affect the authorisation process for proposed development, with a view to reducing the burdens on businesses while maintaining the integrity of the purpose of the directives.’

The Habitats and Birds Directives are therefore presented as barriers to economic growth. Two of the areas of focus for the review include:
– Whether the approach taken by competent authorities is appropriate, particularly in relation to risk, or whether the requirements of the legislation are applied too or insufficiently rigorously; and whether competent authorities and statutory conservation advisers could explore more creative solutions; and
– Whether NE and JNCC’s approach to the provision of advice to competent authorities is appropriate, or takes an excessively or insufficiently precautionary approach.

The Government intends to examine other European Member States for examples of best practice in implementing the Directives and where the UK could learn from others’ experience in terms of applying the Directives whilst avoiding excessive burdens to business.

Wildlife and Countryside Link, of which the BES is a member, are in the process of establishing a taskforce to feed into the Review, with the aim of reporting by January 2012.