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SPA - special protection areaSPA – Special Protection Area

Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are special sites designated under the EU Birds Directive to protect rare, vulnerable and migratory birds. The Directive came into force in April 1979. Marine SPAs protect and manage areas that these birds use for breeding, feeding, wintering or migration.

SPAs are classified in accordance with European Council Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds, known as the Birds Directive. SPAs protect rare and vulnerable birds (as listed on Annex I of the Birds Directive), and regularly occurring migratory species.

SPAs along with Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) form part of the Natura 2000 and Emerald Network.  Both Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) may cover the same areas.

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

Development in SPAs? 

Some changes of use are allowed in Special Protection Areas (SPAs). 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 Protection Area 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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