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Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) and Appropriate Assessment (AA)

Any development that has the potential to have an impact upon a European protected site may be subject to a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) submitted by a competent public body, for example the local planning authority.

ECOSA's role in the HRA process

Although the legal responsibility is on the competent authority to carry out an HRA, information collated to inform the process is often prepared by an appointed consultant. ECOSA has experience in supporting projects through early site assessment and the design stage by providing:

  • Advice on whether a plan or project is likely to have an impact on a European designated site;
  • Outline and detailed proposals for mitigation in order to avoid impacts; and
  • Ecological input to the HRA Screening process to inform the competent authority's decision making.

Legal requirement for HRA

European designated sites, such as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Ramsar sites, are afforded strict protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (as amended), otherwise known as "the Habitats Regulations". Competent authorities, such as local planning authorities, have a legal obligation to consider the impacts of any plan or project likely to have an adverse effect on a European designated site, including the granting of consents or permissions for any such plan or project. The process by which this is assessed is known as a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA).

Triggers for HRA

Impacts that may necessitate a consideration of impacts upon European protected sites include:

  • Increased recreational pressure from, for example, a new housing development;
  • Discharges into watercourses;
  • Noise, air pollution or light pollution; and
  • Disturbance of species or habitats.

Where impacts pose a risk of degradation or disturbance to habitats or species for which a site is designated, HRA may form part of the consents process.

Please call us on 02380 261065 to discuss with a senior/principal ecologist as to how we can support you through the HRA process; or email