An understanding of the legislative framework for the protection of the UK’s wildlife and habitats is useful particularly in relation to the the planning process and gives context to biodiversity conservation initiatives.
The changes covers England and Wales including their inshore waters up to 12 nautical miles (nm). The changes are made by the Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
The regulations ensure that domestic regulations implementing:
will continue to operate effectively and maintain existing protections at the end of the Transition Period (1 January 2021).
In brief, SACs and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in the UK no longer form part of the EU’s Natura 2000 ecological network. The 2019 Regulations have created a national site network on land and at sea, including both the inshore and offshore marine areas in the UK.
The national site network includes:
Any references to Natura 2000 in the 2017 Regulations and in guidance now refers to the new national site network. Maintaining a coherent network of protected sites with overarching conservation objectives is still required in order to:
The obligations of a competent authority in the 2017 Regulations for the protection of sites or species do not change. A competent authority is a public body, statutory undertaker, minister or department of government, or anyone holding public office.
Most of these changes involved transferring functions from the European Commission to the appropriate authorities in England and Wales.
Section 6 of the Environment Act (Wales) places a duty on public authorities to ‘seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity’ so far as it is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions. In so doing, public authorities must also seek to ‘promote the resilience of ecosystems’. The duty replaces the section 40 duty in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (NERC Act 2006), in relation to Wales, and applies to those authorities that fell within the previous duty.
Public authorities will be required to report on the actions they are taking to improve biodiversity and promote ecosystem resilience.
The current guidance for the Section 6 duty can be accessed here
Section 7 - Biodiversity lists and duty to take steps to maintain and enhance biodiversity
This section replaces the duty in section 42 of the NERC Act 2006. The Welsh Ministers will publish, review and revise lists of living organisms and types of habitat in Wales, which they consider are of key significance to sustain and improve biodiversity in relation to Wales.
The Welsh Ministers must also take all reasonable steps to maintain and enhance the living organisms and types of habitat included in any list published under this section, and encourage others to take such steps.
Part 1 of the Act, including Sections 6 and 7, came into force on May 21, 2016.
A list of the living organisms of principal importance for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing biodiversity in relation to Wales.
A list of the habitats of principal importance for the purpose of maintaining and enhancing biodiversity in relation to Wales.
The Conservation of Habitats and Species 2017 (as amended) and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) underpin nature legislation in Wales.
The Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Welsh Ministers have made changes to parts of the 2017 Regulations so that they operate effectively. Most of these changes involved transferring functions from the European Commission to the appropriate authorities in England and Wales. All other processes or terms in the 2017 Regulations remain unchanged and existing guidance is still relevant.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) makes it an offence (subject to exceptions) to intentionally kill, injure or take any wild animal listed on Schedule 5, and prohibits interference with places used for shelter or protection, or intentionally disturbing animals occupying such places. The Act also prohibits certain methods of killing, injuring, or taking wild animals.
The Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. The convention entered into force in the United Kingdom on 5 May 1976. The United Kingdom currently has 174 sites designated as Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Sites) and 10 of these sites are in Wales (this figure includes 3 cross-border sites).
Section 6 of the Environment Act places a duty on public authorities to ‘seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity’ so far as it is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions. In so doing, public authorities must also seek to ‘promote the resilience of ecosystems’.
Section 7 of the Environment Act requires The Welsh Ministers to publish, review and revise lists of living organisms and types of habitat in Wales, which they consider are of key significance to sustain and improve biodiversity in relation to Wales. This is known as the S7 list.
Planning Policy Wales delivers land use planning policy for Wales and provides a framework for the effective preparation of local planning authorities’ development plans. This is supplemented by 21 topic based Technical Advice Notes (TANs). Technical Advice Note 5- Nature Conservation and Planning is a key TAN in relation to nature conservation and biodiversity.
Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation are an important element in many local authority planning regimes and cover significant areas of biodiversity priority habitats and species. Designation is based on objective scientific criteria that accord with the Wales wide guidelines. Identified sites are typically shown on the local development plan proposals map or constraints map.
Wildlife crime appears in many guises, but can be broadly categorised into three main types; crimes involving native species which are endangered or of conservation concern; cruelty to and the persecution of wildlife species; the illegal trade in endangered species. The Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime (PAW) leads on UK Wildlife crime detection and reporting. In terms of priorities, there are UK wildlife crime priorities and Wales-specific wildlife crime priorities.
A review of Wildlife Crime in Wales was carried out and made a number of recommendations including the establishment of a Wildlife Crime Enforcement Group.
If the call is of an urgent nature and requires an immediate police response phone 999.
For all other incidents of wildlife crime call 101 and report the crime as a wildlife crime incident to the operator.
An enforcement working group is now established charged with ensuring interoperability through production of a Welsh wildlife crime strategy; developing codes of practice and data sharing agreements; progressing UK and Welsh wildlife crime priorities; and delivery of a biannual wildlife crime conference.