The UK Marine SACs Project website was a vehicle for communicating and distributing the learning, knowledge and outputs from the UK Marine SACs Project to its wider audience. Since the project was completed in 2001, this website has been closed and all its documents and background information can now be accessed through the UKMPA Centre.

Advice on operations which may cause deterioration or disturbance


Developing the advice

Reviewing and amending the advice on operations

For European marine sites, the country agencies have a duty under Regulation 33(2)(GB) and Regulation 28[2(b)] (NI) to advise relevant authorities as to the operations which may cause deterioration of habitats or the habitats of species, or disturbance to species, for which the site has been designated. This advice will be based on the management needs of the interest feature, irrespective of whether those needs can best be met by relevant authorities, competent authorities, owner-occupiers or anyone else.

The purpose of the advice is to assist relevant authorities and others in managing those activities which could inhibit or prevent the conservation objectives for an interest feature being achieved. Relevant authorities and other competent authorities will also use this information to inform their decisions on the carrying out of operations on the site and when forming a view on the likelihood of significant effects of plans and projects [Regulation 48 (GB) and Regulation 43 (NI)].

The advice on operations will be linked to the conservation objectives for interest features. This will help relevant authorities to assess whether the current management of a site meets these requirements, and whether any changes to management measures are needed.

Advice as to the operations which may cause deterioration or disturbance is not limited to those operations being undertaken within the site boundary. The intent of Regulation 33(2) (GB) and Regulation 28[2(b)] (NI) is to consider all activities that may have an effect on interest features, including activities taking place outside the site boundary.

Individual relevant authorities are not required under these Regulations to deal directly with operations outside their remit. A relevant authority can approach another body (a competent authority, owner-occupier, etc) to request their co-operation in the effective control of an operation. Failing that, a relevant authority can make a request to the Secretary of State to direct another authority to take action. Country agencies have byelaw-making powers which enable them to act where no other regulatory power presently exists, or where the relevant authority is unable to act for legal or practical reasons.


Many European marine sites cover inter-tidal areas up to high water mark as well as sub-tidal areas. Most inter-tidal areas in England, Wales and Scotland within European marine sites will already be designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI, or Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI) in Northern Ireland. The management of SACs on land will be achieved largely through the SSSI/ASSI system. Therefore ASSIs in Northern Ireland will have lists of Notifiable Operations (Nos), under the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. For SSSIs notified under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, in England, Wales and Scotland, the equivalent are termed Operations Likely to Damage (OLDs). SSSIs in England and Wales can be notified down to mean low water mark of ordinary tides. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the SSSIs/ASSIs can be notified down to mean low water mark of spring tides.

Where a site with no sub-tidal area falls within the definition, given in the Regulations, of a European marine site because it includes the inter-tidal area, it may be possible either largely or totally to deliver the conservation objectives through the SSSI/ASSI mechanism and the planning system. In these cases, country agencies may take the view that a management scheme under the Regulations is not necessary.

Whilst the OLDs/NOs will continue in force on SSSIs and ASSIs that are within European marine sites, they are distinct from, and do not replace, the advice which the country agencies are required to provide under Regulation 33 (GB) and Regulation 28 (NI) for the whole of the European marine site. Operations advice may, where appropriate, include reference to activities included in OLDs/NOs lists.

Developing the advice

Operations which may cause the deterioration or disturbance (OMDDs) to the habitats and/or species for which the site has been designated will be identified. The following approach will be taken:

  1. In developing the operations advice, the country agencies will discuss issues concerning the draft list of operations with relevant authorities and users in order to help ensure that the most important operations are identified.
  2. Relevant authorities and country agencies will want to work together to ensure that sufficient management effort is concentrated at an early stage on those activities where effective control is most important to prevent deterioration or damage. In developing advice on operations, reference will be made to the existing list of OLDs/NOs for particular sites.
  3. It is important to note that the country agencies’ advice on operations is not intended to restrict the actions of relevant authorities to control or manage potentially damaging operations. Opportunities should be taken for positive management of a site to assist with achieving the conservation objectives and to ensure the overall sustainable use of the site’s marine resources.

Reviewing and amending the advice on operations

It will be made clear to relevant authorities that the advice given includes only those operations which are judged likely to be significant in relation to the site’s interest features. However, other operations which are usually judged to pose little risk could, if carried out intensively or in a very sensitive location, cause deterioration or disturbance and relevant authorities will want to seek to minimise such activities. Similarly, it may not have been possible to foresee, or predict the possible effects of, novel operations or technologies and these may not have been included in the initial list even though potentially damaging. Therefore the country agencies will want to review the experience with relevant authorities, learn from it, and revise the advice as necessary.

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