In March 2011, following concerns expressed by stakeholders about the robustness and integrity of the process to designate some marine Special Areas of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive, Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Bob Watson FRS, commissioned an independent review of the process that Natural England (previously English Nature) and Defra used to select the three case study areas for designation as marine SACs.
The review has now been completed. It concluded that the evidence underpinning selection of three case study marine SACs is sufficient to support the proposed designation of the sites as SACs, in the light of the requirements of the Habitats Directive. However, it raised some concerns about aspects of the processes which Natural England and Defra followed and made a number of recommendations for the future. These are being considered by Defra and Natural England. A formal response to the review will be published in the autumn.
Members of the Review Team were: Dr Ian Graham-Bryce FRSE CBE (Chair); Professor Andrew Pullin, Dr Steve Widdicombe and Dr Ann Davies (consultant, In House Policy Resource) with a secretariat provided by Defra.
As part of the review, Dr Davies carried out a detailed study of the processes used by Natural England to select consultants, and of the process for public consultation.