When is NIEA consulted?

Planning Service (PS) and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) have agreed on the types of planning application that NIEA should provide advice on.

An area designated for its nature conservation value 

Sites containing specific standards of nature conservation value are designated under International, European and national legislation. These are often referred to as 'designated sites'. NIEA provide nature conservation advice on the following designated sites:

Ramsar Sites

Ramsar Sites are internationally designated sites of wetland habitats. They are of particular value to wetland birds. The designation aims to halt the loss of wetlands by promoting conservation and 'wise use' of wetlands habitats. 

Natura 2000 sites

These are designated and protected under the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc) Regulations (NI) 1995. 

There are two types of designation. Special Protection Areas (SPAs) Special Protection Areas are classified for the presence of internationally important bird populations. Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) Special Areas of Conservation are designated to protect some of the most seriously threatened habitats and species across Europe.

Areas of Special Scientific Interest

Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) Land and Landscapes Areas of Special Scientific Interest are sites of special value because of their plants, animals, geological or physiographical features. They are designated under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (NI) Order 1985 (as amended 1989) and under the Environment (NI) Order 2002

Within ASSIs certain activities, known as notifiable operations, may require, in advance, a consent licence from NIEA to carry out work. Further information on notifiable operations may be obtained by e-mailing: cdp@daera-ni.gov.uk 

A plant or animal species protected by law

Certain species of plants and animals are protected by law. The Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 (the Order) and amendment The Wildlife (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 which prohibits the intentional killing, taking or injuring of certain wild birds and wild animals or the intentional destruction, uprooting or picking of certain wild plants. If a development site is known or is likely to support a protected plant and animal species, the developer is obliged under legislation not to harm those species. NIEA assesses the potential impact of development proposals on those plants and animal species protected by the Order. Mitigation measures and/or conditions may be required to ensure protection of valuable habitats and species.

The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended). The Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 which states that it is an offence to deliberately capture, injure or kill a wild animal of a European protected species included in Schedule II of these Regulations, which includes bats and otters.

It is also an offence to;

  • Deliberately disturb such an animal while it is occupying a structure or place which it uses for shelter or protection;
  • Deliberately disturb such an animal in such a way as to be likely to:
    • affect the local distribution or abundance of the species to which it belongs;
    • impair its ability to survive, breed or reproduce, or rear or care for its young; or impair its ability to hibernate or migrate
    • deliberately to obstruct access to a breeding site or resting place of such an animal; or to damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of such an animal

If there is evidence of bat or otter activity on the site, all work must cease immediately and further advice must be sought from the *NIEA Wildlife Officer*.

Certain species of non-native plants are invasive and spread quickly. These species are listed in Schedule 9 Part II of the Wildlife Order. Please see our field guide for further information. Under this legislation it is an offence to release these species into the wild. These species need special treatment to avoid further spread. NIEA will advise Planning Service when invasive species, such as Japanese Knotweed, are found on a proposed development site. Advice on control of invasive species can be found on the Invasive Species Ireland website.

The new Regulation (EU) 1143/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.

The EU Regulation came into force on 1 January 2015 and addresses the problem of certain European wide invasive alien species in a comprehensive manner. It aims to establish a more consistent approach to tackling those invasive alien species.

A core provision of the EU Regulation is a list of invasive alien species of Union concern (‘the Union list’), which are species whose potential adverse impacts across the European Union are such that concerted action across Europe is required.

The initial list of 37 species (14 plants and 23 animals), to which the EU Regulation will apply, was adopted on 4 December 2015 and will come into force in the summer of 2016.

The Department proposes to make subordinate legislation using section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 and will be in place in October 2016, in line with the rest of the devolved administrations.

For alternative advice on control of Japanese knotweed see guidelines provided by the Environment Agency.

Advice on how to treat species of agricultural weeds is also available on our website.

An area containing a Priority Habitat or Priority Species 

Areas containing habitats or species that have been identified as a priority by the Northern Ireland Biodiversity Strategy (NIBS)

The Northern Ireland Biodiversity Strategy (NIBS) identifies habitats and species that are rare, vulnerable or declining.

These are known as 'Priority Habitats' and 'Priority Species'. Each will have an action plan which is a statement to guide both local and national policy and action.

The strategy was adopted by the NI Executive in 2002 and all Northern Ireland government Agencies and Departments have made a commitment to meet its recommendations.

Other areas which contain natural features 

There may be areas of land that do not have conservation designation.
These are equally important to biodiversity as a 'wildlife corridor' or as 'stepping stones'.

Examples include a river corridor, grassland, peatland, woodland, ponds/wetlands, sites containing earth science features and abandoned railway corridors.

An area designated as an AONB or WHS

The Development Management Team provides advice on large-scale development proposals that may have a significant impact on the landscape character of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). AONBs are designated under the Amenity Lands Act (Northern Ireland) 1965 and the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (NI) Order 1985. They are landscapes with a distinctive character and are designated for the quality of their landscape, heritage and wildlife. They also have an important amenity value for recreation. Planning policies for development proposals within AONBs are set out in the Planning Strategy for Rural Northern Ireland 1993.

World Heritage Sites (WHS)are internationally designated sites. NIEA provides advice on significant development proposals near the Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site.

An Area of Nature Conservation or Landscape Importance 

This includes Sites of Local Nature Conservation Importance (SLNCIs) and Local Landscape Policy Areas (LLPAs). These are designated for their habitats, species, earth science and/or landscape value. They may have a local importance and contribute to national and European biodiversity.

Sites of Local Nature Conservation Importance (SLNCI)

Sites of Local Nature Conservation Importance (SLNCIs) are identified as supporting habitats, species or earth science features.  As well as making a contribution to the local natural heritage, they contribute to National and European biodiversity.  Their location is identified through the relevant area plan.

Local Landscape Policy Areas (LLPAs)

These are identified in Area Plans, in and around urban areas and are designated for their landscape and wildlife value. The features that contribute to their landscape quality are specifically described in the Area Plan.

Landscape Character Areas (LCA)

NIEA has identified 130 distinct character areas within Northern Ireland.  Each LCA is based on its characteristics, landscape condition and sensitivity to change. Work on compiling similar biodiversity and geodiversity profiles for every LCA has recently been completed to complement the existing landscape descriptions.

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