Under the EC habitats directive, 1992, the UK is obliged to designate special areas of conservation. Their designation can be based only on scientific evidence and European case law rules that socio-economic impacts cannot be taken into account in the designation process.
My department is currently considering draft proposals for special areas of conservation (SACs) from the statutory nature conservation bodies. We are likely to conduct a formal consultation on these sites in November 2009.
Any development that is likely to have a significant effect on the SAC, either individually or in combination with other plans and projects, such as construction of wind farms, must be assessed in accordance with Article 6.3 of the habitats directive which is transposed and implemented in the UK by the Habitats Regulations 1994 and the Offshore Marine Conservation Regulations 2007. In the event of a negative assessment and absence of alternative solutions, a development may be carried out for reasons of overriding public interest, as long as compensatory measures are put in place to ensure the overall coherence of the site network. Designation of an area as an SAC does not necessarily restrict the construction or operation of wind farms in or near that area.