Nelson Ecology staff are trained and qualified in Appropriate Assessment (AA).

Legislation in the form of the Birds Directive in 1979 and the Habitats Directive has led to the establishment the Natura 2000 network of sites of highest biodiversity importance for rare and threatened habitats and species across the EU. In Ireland and the UK, the Natura 2000 network of European sites comprises Special Areas of Conservation (SACs, including candidate SACs), and Special Protection Areas (SPAs, including proposed SPAs).

There is a requirement to consider the possible nature conservation implications of any plan or project on the Natura 2000 site network before any decision is made to allow that plan or project to proceed. Not only is every new plan or project captured by this requirement but each plan or project, when being considered for approval at any stage, must take into consideration the possible effects it may have in combination with other plans and projects when going through the process known as appropriate assessment (AA).

The obligation to undertake appropriate assessment derives from Article 6(3) and 6(4) of the Habitats Directive, and both involve a number of steps and tests that need to be applied in sequential order. Article 6(3) is concerned with the strict protection of sites, while Article 6(4) is the procedure for allowing derogation from this strict protection in certain restricted circumstances. Each step in the assessment process precedes and provides a basis for other steps.

The first test is to establish whether, in relation to a particular plan or project, appropriate assessment is required. This is termed AA screening.