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SAC - Special Areas of ConservationSAC – Special Areas of Conservation

Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) are internationally important areas defined by the national planning policy framework (NPPF) as ‘Areas given special protection under the European Union’s Habitats Directive, which is transposed into UK law by the Habitats and Conservation of Species Regulations 2010.’

The purpose of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) is to help conserve the habitat and species identified in Annex I and II of the Directive. Of the Annex I habitat types, 78 are believed to occur in the UK. Of the Annex II species, 43 are native to, and normally resident in, the UK.

They are considered to be the habitats and species that are most in need of conservation at the European level (excluding birds). Special Areas of Conservation along with Special Protection Areas (SPAs), which are classified under the Birds Directive, collectively form the Natura 2000 network.

SACs along with Special Protection Areas (SPA) form part of the Natura 2000 and Emerald Network known as Areas of Special Conservation Interest (ASCIs).  Both Special Protection Areas (SPA) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) may cover the same areas.

A list of all the Special Areas of Conservation can be found here. You can use DEFRAs MAGiC mapping system to locate the SACs in your area.

Development in SACs? 

Some changes of use are allowed in Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). You can see what is possible on our table of permitted development opportunities. This shows each permitted development class and whether you can use it in AONBs, SPAs, conservation areas etc. 

Any developments that are close to (or within) the boundary of a Special Areas of Conservation may require a Habitat Regulations Assessment (HRA) if they are likely to have an adverse affect on the site.

An initial screening stage would be required, followed by an appropriate assessment.

Where it is considered that an adverse effect on the integrity of the site is likely, and no alternatives are available, the project can only go ahead if there are imperative reasons of over-riding public interest and if the appropriate compensatory measures can be secured.


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