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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/improvement-programme-for-englands-natura-2000-sites-ipens/improvement-programme-for-englands-natura-2000-sites-ipens
Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA) are collectively known as Natura 2000 sites and are protected under European legislation for their important wildlife and habitats. In England there are 338 sites covering 2,076,875 hectares - see the Natura 2000 map.
Working with partners to improve Europe’s most important wildlife areas
Many sites are being adequately conserved and meet their conservation objectives (termed “favourable condition”), but a significant number are not yet in a healthy state.
A wide range of organisations and individuals own, manage or have an interest in Natura 2000 sites. This includes government agencies, voluntary bodies, private companies and individuals who collectively have a wealth of knowledge and experience.
The improvement programme for England’s Natura 2000 sites (IPENS) is working with these partners, and other stakeholders to develop a strategic approach to achieving favourable condition on these sites by reviewing:
- the risks and issues that are impacting on and/or threatening the condition of the site
- which actions and measures could be used to address them
- how much it will cost and where the money could come from
This will be the first time that this information will have been drawn together for all of England’s Natura 2000 sites.
It will provide Natural England and our partners with:
- an improved understanding of the issues affecting the sites and how to address them
- a clear plan of action for improving their condition and how much it may cost
- recommendations to improve gaps in funding and evidence
It will also help the UK government to meet its responsibilities under the Habitat and Birds Directives and will be used to update England’s contribution to the UKs Prioritised Action Framework (PAF). A PAF outlines the funding needs for a country and the priorities for Natura 2000 sites. See:
Using evidence to support IPENS
Developing an evidence base is an important element of IPENS. In England there is no central data source for Natura 2000 sites. IPENS is pulling together evidence to understand the conditions, pressures and threats to the sites from various sources including:
- Natural England’s site condition database for sites of special scientific interest, which underpin all Natura 2000 sites in England
- Habitats and Birds Directive reports
- academic literature
- specialist knowledge
IPENS is looking at the gaps in knowledge that have been found from the evidence and has run 54 projects to start to plug these. Topics include:
- investigating risks and issues affecting Natura 2000 sites
- looking into potential management measures to alleviate risks and issues
- monitoring and mapping sites to provide a baseline to work from
This has helped shape the theme plans covering broader issues and site improvement plans (SIPs).
Evidence gaps that IPENS is unable to fund will be recorded in the:
- evidence gap log
- theme plans
- individual SIPs
- AfterLIFE implementation plan - a strategic framework document
See the evidence projects published so far.
The following documents are available:
- overall programme plan - programme approach and findings
- summary report
- site improvement plans for each Natura 2000 site in England
- theme plans to address common issues across multiple sites
- directory of actions, measures and funding options to achieve favourable condition
- AfterLIFE implementation plan - the future management of England’s Natura 2000 sites
Site improvement plans
The SIPs will outline the priority measures needed to achieve and maintain the European species and habitats within a site in favourable condition. They:
- provide a high level overview of the issues affecting the condition of the site
- identify the priority actions to address the issues
- identify the potential funding sources available
The SIPs are based on Natural England’s current evidence and knowledge. These are live documents which will be updated as further meetings take place with partners, landowners and managers and recommended actions are prioritised and put into effect.
SIPs are not designed to be habitat management plans, or fully agreed and funded programmes of specific measures ready for on the ground delivery, but they will be used as one of the sources of information that help direct the actions of organisations involved in the management of Natura 2000 sites.
SIPs are being developed for all existing sites in England, including coastal and marine sites. Some sites may be grouped together if there are overlap areas or common features.
See the site improvement plans.
SIPs and River Basin Management Plans
The Water Framework Directive (WFD) provides the main framework for managing the water environment throughout Europe. Under the WFD a management plan must be developed for each river basin district. The River Basin Management Plans (RBMP) include a summary of the measures needed for water dependent Natura 2000 sites to meet their conservation objectives.
For the second round of RBMPs, SIPs are being used to capture the priorities and new measures required for water dependent habitats on Natura 2000 sites. SIP actions for non-water dependent sites/habitats do not form part of the RBMPs and associated consultation.
See the SIPs that form part of the RBMPs.
Theme plans and workshops
A theme plan is a high-level plan which identifies larger scale solutions used to manage issues that affect multiple sites, which are more difficult to resolve on an individual basis.
The IPENS project has identified 11 issues which would benefit from this approach and will be the focus of the theme plans:
- atmospheric nitrogen
- climate change
- diffuse water pollution
- habitat fragmentation
- hydrological functioning
- inappropriate coastal management
- invasive species
- lake restoration
- public access and disturbance
- river restoration
Natural England research report 053 outlines the evidence and approach used to identify these themes.
See the theme plans.
The wider benefit of theme plans
Managing the sites by common theme will improve coherent management and target issues which affect a range of habitats and species both within and beyond Natura 2000 sites.
An important step in developing theme plans is to identify relevant initiatives that are already underway, and assess their contribution to the sites. The IPENS project team has run a series of workshops and events to share knowledge and identify gaps that will help develop the theme plans.
The IPENS project is working with experts from a range of organisations to identify the solutions to these large scale issues. Through a series of workshops common needs are emerging across the themes, for example:
- evidence – a need for better availability and governance of existing data
- guidance and sharing best practice – having an understanding of issues, knowing where and what issues are present
- funding and commitment – know what’s available, making sure it is flexible and being able to secure long-term funding for long-term projects
- actions and measures – gaps in available off-site mechanisms and using the appropriate measures for maximum effectiveness