Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA)

Scottish Forestry are a competent authority under the Habitats Regulations. As such we must consider whether any proposed forestry plan or project will have a likely significant effect on a European site, before deciding to give any consent, permission or other authorisation. A process known as Habitats Regulations Appraisal (HRA).

What is the purpose of HRA? 

  • ensures the objectives of the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive are met;
  • contributes to the maintenance of the Natura 2000 network;
  • considers the consequence of actions for features of European sites; and
  • maintains habitats and species at Favourable Conservation Status.

When does HRA apply? 

European sites, which are considered in the appraisal process, are Special Protection Areas (SPA) classified under the Birds Directive, Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated under the Habitats Directive, and ‘candidate’ SAC. 

For a proposal to potentially affect a site, there has to be a link or connection between the qualifying interests of the site and the changes that a proposal may cause. 

It is not possible to produce a list of plans or projects that must always be subject to appraisal and those that will not. Neither the EC Directives or the Habitats Regulations define the scope of either plan or project by reference to particular categories of either. Instead, the key limiting factor is whether a plan or project could undermine the conservation objectives of the qualifying features for which the site was designated.

Information on European sites across Scotland 

SiteLink provides access to information on European sites. You can view site boundaries, qualifying interests, conservation objectives, site condition and download supporting documents. There is also data on site management agreements and consultation cases, along with links to other websites for supporting information.


Any person applying to us for consent, permission or other authorisation for a plan or project, which we consider is likely to have a significant effect on a European site, must provide such information as we may reasonably require for the purposes of the appraisal.

Appropriate Assessment  

Where there is a likely significant effect we cannot approve a proposal unless it can be shown beyond reasonable scientific doubt by means of ‘appropriate assessment’ that it will not adversely affect the integrity of a European site. 

Site integrity is considered to be ‘the coherent sum of the site’s ecological structure, function and ecological processes, across its whole area, which enables it to sustain the habitats, complex of habitats and/or populations of species for which the site is designated’. 

For the purposes of the assessment we must formally consult Scottish Natural Heritage ‘the appropriate nature conservation body’ and have regard to its advice, before ascertaining whether or not the proposal would adversely affect the integrity of the European site.

Approval for plans or projects  

If it cannot be ascertained that a proposal will not adversely affect the integrity of a European site, consent, permission or other authorisation will not be granted. The proposal will then be returned to the applicant for revision until subsequent reassessment can establish, with certainty, that there will be no adverse effect on the European site.

Public participation

The Habitats Regulations also state, where appropriate, we should take the opinion of the general public. Our process for doing so is by publishing details of the associated Forest Plan, Woodland Creation Application, Felling Permission or Environmental Impact Assessment on our Public Registers.