Exit day brings in new legislation for biodiversity

The Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

Our departure from the European Union (EU) on 1st February 2020 is a new day for biodiversity as the Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 comes into force on ‘exit day’.

In essence, the changes (agreed back in March 2019) are of governance only and the protection of wildlife sites, habitats and species remains intact. So, it’s out with words like ‘European Union’, ‘of Community interest’ and ‘biogeographical regions…of the territory’ and replaced with ‘United Kingdom’, ‘of national interest’, ‘Atlantic biogeographical regions’ and, of course, extensive inclusion of ‘exit day’.

The United Kingdom Government will still be required to report every six years on the implementation of the Habitats Directive and the Wild Bird Directive, and a duty remains to designate Special Areas of Conservation. The change being, is that designations on or after ‘exit day’ are to be of ‘national importance’. Each ‘competent authority’ will also (under the new Regulation 141A) have a transitionary six years to designate previous sites of ‘community importance’ to a new ‘national importance’.

However, there is no change at present to the protection of wildlife formerly known as ‘European Protected Species’. There will continue to be a requirement by a ‘competent authority’ to ensure their protection in the ‘national’ context. People will still need to undertake appropriate measures, such as protected species surveys, where such an animal is reasonably likely to be present and proposed works will have an impact.

In summary, the intention of the change is to ensure habitat and species protection and standards as set out under the Nature Directives are implemented in the same way or an equivalent way as the UK exits the EU. Therefore, there is no (or no significant) impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies. There is no (or no significant) impact on the public sector. There is also no change to policy. Well, at least not yet!

Richard Dodd, Principal Ecologist