HC Deb 10 May 1999 vol 331 c10W
Mr. Fraser

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what account he takes of public support for the construction of a relief road in deciding whether to give statutory protection to an area considered by English Nature to be worthy of special conservation the designation of which will obstruct the building of that road; [83777]

(2) what account his Department takes of the effect on environmental pollution of selecting a site for protection as a Special Area of Conservation whose designation will obstruct the construction of a relief road. [83760]

Mr. Meale

None. All Special Areas of Conservation are selected on the basis of their scientific conservation interest. The decision to allow the building of a road must be based on a number of planning factors one of which is its possible effect on nature conservation sites. Article 6 of the Habitats Directive requires all plans or projects which may have a significant effect on sites designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to be assessed for their implications on the site's conservation objectives. If that assessment shows that the plan or project would adversely affect the integrity of the site, consent may only be given, in the absence of alternatives (ie a less damaging way of carrying out the scheme), in the overriding public interest.