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House of Commons Hansard
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12 March 2015
Volume 594
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10. If she will take steps to increase the number of Natura 2000 sites in England. [908029]

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A review of the network of special protection areas classified under the wild birds directive is currently under way and will inform decisions on the need to classify further sites. The network of special areas of conservation designated under the habitats directive is essentially complete, but is continually under review to ensure that it remains sufficient. Further work has been undertaken to identify additional SACs for harbour porpoise and is expected to deliver later this year.

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I thank the Minister for his answer. In that review, will he consider extending the status of Natura 2000 to the area of outstanding natural beauty in the Chilterns, particularly as it has precious ancient woodland, really fragile chalk streams and the majestic sight of the successfully re-introduced red kites soaring over our Chiltern hills? Surely we should be a candidate for Natura 2000 designation.

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I can reassure my right hon. Friend that the work of the AONBs is very much recognised by Government. On considering further protections, we must look at the evidence on those particular species and take any decision very carefully. Natural England is considering designating more ancient woodland as sites of special scientific interest, which will increase the protection afforded to the best ancient woodlands above and beyond that which is already accorded to ancient woodlands through the national planning policy framework.