1.5 Site selection criteria and principles in the UK

1.5.1 Summary of site selection criteria and principles

 

As noted in Section 1.3.2, Annex III of the Directive includes criteria for selecting sites eligible for identification as Sites of Community Importance and designation as Special Areas for Conservation (SACs). The text of the Directive also includes reference to selection of sites using the selection criteria and relevant scientific information. In preparing the UK national list of candidate SACs (for terrestrial and inshore habitats), as well as the Annex III selection criteria, additional principles for site selection were developed, which interpret and supplement the Annex III selection criteria. These additional principles extend beyond the specific criteria that are included in Annex III and occur at various points in the Directive, and were developed in the light of discussions between Member States and the European Commission at the 1994 Atlantic Biogeographical meeting (Hopkins & Buck 1995). The selection criteria and additional principles for site selection are shown in Table 1.4 below. The interpretation of these main factors and the judgements made in applying them to selection of a high-quality site list are described below.

Table 1.4 Summary of site assessment criteria and additional principles used for site selection in the UK

Site assessment criteria: Annex I habitats Reference
i.) Representativity Annex III Stage 1A(a); Article 1e; Conclusions of 1994 Atlantic Biogeographical Region Meeting (para. 4).
ii) Relative surface area of habitat Annex III Stage 1A(b); Article 1e; Conclusions of 1994 Atlantic Biogeographical Region Meeting (para. 4).
iii) Conservation of structure and function Annex III Stage 1A(c); Article 1e.
iv) Global assessment Annex III Stage 1A(d).
Site assessment criteria: Annex II species Reference
v) Proportion of UK population Annex III Stage 1B(a); Article 1I; Conclusions of 1994 Atlantic Biogeographical Region Meeting (para. 7).
vi) Conservation of features important for species survival Annex III Stage 1B(b); Article 1i.
vii) Isolation of species populations Annex III Stage 1B(c); Conclusions of 1994 Atlantic Biogeographical Region Meeting (para. 7).
viii) Global assessment Annex III Stage 1B(d).
Additional principles Reference
ix) Priority/non-priority status Annex III Stage 1D; Article 1d; Conclusions of 1994 Atlantic Biogeographical Region Meeting (para. 3).
x) Geographical range Article 1e.
xi) Special UK responsibilities Article 3.2; Conclusions of 1994 Atlantic Biogeographical Region (para. 6)
xii) Multiple interest Annex III Stage 2.2(d); Conclusions of 1994 Atlantic Biogeographical Region Meeting (para. 2).
xiii) Rarity Conclusions of 1994 Atlantic Biogeographical Region Meeting (para. 5).

 

The process of site selection as a whole in the UK has been one of considering, in respect of the relevant criteria and principles in Table 1.4, the relative value of the proposed sites in relation to the whole national resource of each habitat type and each species separately. Information on how this is applied in each case is included in the accounts that follow.

To meet the requirements of the EC, all qualifying interest features are identified on each site, i.e. all occurrences of Annex I habitats and Annex II species which are considered to be of European importance. Fragmentary habitat occurrences, small populations of species, and habitats and species occurring outside their natural range have generally been treated as 'non-significant presences'. These habitats and species are listed on the Natura 2000 standard data forms but do not require conservation objectives and are not protected under the Directive (as stated in the EC guidance document Managing Natura 2000 sites: the provisions of Article 6 of the 'Habitats' Directive 92/43/EEC (European Commission 2000)). In general, the standard used to select Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) in England, Scotland and Wales, and Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs) in Northern Ireland has been used as the threshold to distinguish between non-significant presences and qualifying interest features. This approach is based on the assessment of criteria similar to those listed in Annex III of the Directive, and provides a standard benchmark for use across the UK.

Application of the criteria and principles in Table 1.4 has led to the selection of a list of sites, all of which, subject to consultation, have been or will be submitted as eligible for identification as sites of community importance (SCIs).