The designation of lands as special areas of conservation – SACs – is not intended as a prohibition on future development. As far as farming activities are concerned, no restrictions on existing activities arise in the majority of cases. In a minority of cases, existing activities may have to be restricted but only to the extent necessary to conserve the habitats and species in the designated areas. Farming prescriptions required to ensure the continuance of the favourable conservation status of SACs are discussed with farming interests and compensation is available for any losses sustained or income foregone as a result of changing existing practices to comply with these prescriptions.
Under the European Communities (Natural Habitats) Regulations 1997, which transposed the EU habitats directive into Irish law, where a development which requires planning permission is likely to have a significant effect on a SAC, the planning authority must ensure that the implications for the conservation status of the site are assessed. The planning authority may grant permission for the development if the assessment shows that there will be no significant adverse impact on the site. Windfarm proposals are covered by these provisions. Similar provisions apply where operations or activities do not require planning permission but require a licence or consent from any Minister under various enactments.