ASSI Guidance for Public Bodies/Competent Authorities

Advice and guidance for Public Bodies/Competent Authorities in relation to their duties concerning ASSIs

Duties where a Public Body proposes to carry out operations

Where a Public Body proposes to carry out any operation(s) likely to damage the features of an ASSI, the Public Body is required to submit an application for assent to the Department.  This requirement applies whether the operation(s) in question will take place within the boundary of the ASSI or outside it and irrespective of distance from the site. For example, if you are going to spray bracken on a field which is next to an ASSI with sensitive flora or fauna an impact may be caused, or you intend to do work upstream of a waterway which is an ASSI.

In response to an application the Department can either issue assent (with or without conditions) or refuse to issue assent.  Where a response is not issued by the Department within 28 days, the Public Body should assume refusal to assent.

Please note: The onus is on the public body to notify land owners of the intended activity prior to operations commencing.

Duties where a Public Body proposes to authorise or permit operations/activities

Similar to the above duties associated with carrying out an operation, where a Public Body is required to issue any form of permission or authorisation for any works that would be likely to have a significant effect on an ASSI it is required to provide notification to the Department.  This is known as an Article 40 notification and is required even where the works in question would take place outside an ASSI boundary.

A response from the Department will be issued within 28 days as required under legislation.  In determining whether to issue its permission or authorisation the Public Body is required to consider the advice of the Department in its decision process.

Duties of Public Bodies/Competent Authorities concerning SACs, SPAs and Ramsar Sites

Under The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended) certain sites have been designated as either Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) or Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Together these sites form part of the UK national site network. Ramsar sites have been designated under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. 

Under this legislation Public Bodies are referred to as ‘Competent Authorities’.  Where a competent authority proposes to carry out or issue any form of authorisation for works or activities where the site in question is designated as being part of the UK national site network, the works are subject to the requirements of The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended). 

To this end a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) is required to be undertaken prior to carrying out or issuing any form or permission or authorisation. 

While it is not possible to outline the entire legalities of The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended) and the assessment succinctly, in broad terms the HRA should seek to inform the design of the proposal and is legally required to ensure the protection of UK national site network against adverse impacts on their integrity.

The HRA should be submitted as an accompaniment to your application for assent or under Article 40 outlined above.

If you have any queries in relation to applying for Assent/Article 40 notification or undertaking a HRA use contact email:

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