Section 28 is the way in which Natural England offer permission for acts that might potentially damage SSSIs. It refers to the 1981 Countryside & Wildlife Act, which was amended by the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. It applies to individual landowners as well as public bodies such as Secretary of State, government departments and agencies, local authorities and statutory undertakers ( water, gas, drainage boards ).
The Act requires people who own or occupy of SSSIs to ask Natural England for permission to carry out operations that may “damage the special interest of the site”. These operations (also might be called ‘Operations Likely to Damage’ (OLD) or ‘Potentially Damaging Operations’ ( PDOs) are listed for each SSSI. They might include drainage, excavation or change of use. [Normally where the site is already under a management agreement or management plan agreed with Natural England then the consent will be implicit in these plans. ].
There are three separate strands, based on who is applying and why :
1. Consents (= Section 28 E)
– applies to SSSI owners/occupiers of an SSSI asking permission to undertake works, including a public body where it isnt part of their functions e.g. where they own a SSSI.
2. Assents (= Section 28 H) –
where public bodies are carrying out their functions such as and they need to undertake works on a site that includes an operation identified in the SSSI notification as likely to damage.
3. Advice (= Section 28 I)
– where a public body, such as a local authority, has powers to grant permission for others to undertake work on an SSSI. Natural England can advise against giving permission for such operations that may “damage the special interest of the site” or advise that conditions should be attached.
Natural England may grant consent, with or without conditions, or refuse consent on operations, where it is not “compatible with furthering the conservation and enhancement of the special interest of the site”.
More information is available from Natural England : https://www.gov.uk/guidance/protected-areas-sites-of-special-scientific-interest
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