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Areas of Special Scientific Interest

Volume 454: debated on Thursday 14 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland why the designation of areas of special scientific interest in Northern Ireland has been delayed; and if he will make a statement. (108003)

The delay in the programme for designating areas of special scientific interest (ASSIs) has resulted from the prioritisation of the work to identify, designate and protect special areas of conservation and special protection areas to comply with the requirements of European directives.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of the budget of the Environment and Heritage Service will be set aside to meet the costs of areas of special scientific interest designations in Northern Ireland in the next financial year. (108150)

The projected spend by Environment and Heritage Service on areas of special scientific interest designations in 2007-08 is £3,329,000. This figure includes the anticipated spend on management agreements, ASSI-related research and the salary costs of the staff involved in the survey, designation, management and protection of ASSIs.

In total this figure equates to 5.68 per cent. of the EHS budget beginning 1 April 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what percentage of the budget of the Environment and Heritage Service was set aside to meet the costs of designated areas of special scientific interest in Northern Ireland in each of the last six years; and if he will make a statement. (108175)

The total costs associated with the designation and management of areas of special scientific interest for each of the last six years would include a proportion of staff costs, expenditure on ASSI-related research and the costs of management agreements and associated works. Only the latter can be calculated with any degree of accuracy.

Expressed as actual costs and as a percentage of the EHS budget, the costs of ASSI management agreements for the last six years are as follows:

Expenditure (£)

Percentage of the EHS budget

2001-02

140,000

0.42

2002-03

110,000

0.28

2003-04

220,000

0.43

2004-05

350,000

0.62

2005-06

350,000

0.61

Figures for this financial year will not be finalised until April but should again show a small increase in expenditure for the 12-month period to 31 March 2007.