To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what advice is available to local authorities concerning the need to assess the effect that plans or projects may have on special areas of conservation designated under the new EC habitats directive.
Our obligation under the forthcoming directive to assess the effect of plans and projects on designated special areas of conservation is covered in the draft planning policy guidance on nature conservation. This was circulated for consultation by the Department of the Environment on 27 February.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action is being taken to identify those areas in the United Kingdom which should be considered for designation as special areas for conservation under the forthcoming EC habitats directive.
The Government and their scientific advisers are currently examining the criteria set out in annex III of the forthcoming EC habitats directive with a view to evaluating the eligibility of sites for inclusion on the United Kingdom's proposed national list of SITES of Community importance. While I expect it to be some time before I am in a position to determine the full list, the Government intend to comply with the timetable set by the directive.
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he intends to introduce in order to comply with article 6·2—avoidance of the deterioration of the habitats—of the EC directive on the conservation of natural and semi-natural habitats arid of wild fauna and flora—the habitats directive.
Officials are currently consulting the statutory nature conservation agencies and other Government Departments about the legislative, regulatory and administrative provisions through which the forthcoming directive is to be implemented in the United Kingdom. The measures already in place under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended, give considerable protection to the important wildlife habitat in this country. A recent further welcome step has been the launch of English Nature's wildlife enhancement scheme to secure more positive management of sites of special scientific interest.