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Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004

Schedule 1.Notifications relating to sites of special scientific interest: procedure
Application of Schedule

66.Paragraph 1 applies Schedule 1 to the notification of SSSIs under section 3(1), the notification of enlargements under section 5 and the denotification of SSSIs under section 9.

Publication

67.Paragraph 2 ensures that SNH must publish information describing the general effect of notifications under sections 3(1), 5(1) and 9(1). The objective is to ensure that the general public should reasonably be aware that an SSSI is being created, enlarged or removed. The minimum requirement is that information should be published in a local newspaper circulating in the area in which the SSSI is situated. SNH also has discretion as to other means of publicising the notification. The SNH website could, for example, provide a key mechanism for making such information publicly available. This provision allows SNH to give consideration to and to use other appropriate means designed to bring notifications are brought to the attention of a wider audience.

Content of notification

68.Paragraph 3 details the information which must be given to the interested parties when SNH provides notification of an SSSI, its enlargement or denotification and which must also be contained in the related notice required under paragraph 2.

69.It is a requirement of paragraph 3 that any such notification, and any notice published under paragraph 2 in the press, on the internet or elsewhere, must name a place where the full notification can be inspected free of charge at any reasonable time and from where a copy of the relevant documentation can be obtained or purchased.

70.Paragraph 3(c) ensures that SSSI notifications, notifications of enlargement and denotifications, and related notices give information about the right to make representations to SNH. The formal date of notification is defined in section 48(2) and the deadline for the submission of representations cannot be less than 3 months after this date. SNH must also specify the manner in which representations are to be made (including, for example, the address to which they are to be sent and whether representations can be made by e-mail as well as by letter).

Confirmation or withdrawal of notification

71.Paragraph 4 requires that an SSSI notification, notification of enlargement or denotification must be formally confirmed or withdrawn by SNH within one year of the date on which it was given. Provision is made to allow the period of one year to be extended in accordance with arrangements set out in paragraph 12. SNH is obliged to consider any representations which have been made in relation to the notification before confirming it. As noted above, representations must be made within the period specified in the notification and in the notice given under paragraph 2 which, by virtue of paragraph 3(c), cannot be less than 3 months.

72.Paragraph 5 deals with the situation in which SNH fails to confirm a notification within the one year period (or within any period as extended by virtue of paragraph 12). If a notification is not formally confirmed by the deadline, it is to be treated as if it had been withdrawn by SNH on the day on which the period allowed for confirmation expired. In such circumstances the notification no longer has any effect and the SSSI ceases to exist. It should, however, be noted that a failure to confirm the notification does not invalidate any effects it may have had during the period prior to non-confirmation – for example, if decisions under regulatory regimes or the planning system had been influenced by the existence of the SSSI.

Modification of notification

73.Paragraphs 6 to 8 enable SNH to modify a notification prior to confirmation. Notifications may be modified by amending the matters specified in the SSSI notification (defined in section 3(4)) and SNH is accorded a degree of flexibility in this connection during the period prior to the notification being confirmed.

74.Thus the description of the land, the natural features which are of special interest or the miscellaneous other information included in the SSSI notification may be added to, removed or amended. This may, for example, be done where SNH requires to correct part of the notification or accepts a particular point made by an objector. SNH may also amend the boundaries of the site to reduce its coverage, for example, where it considers that a particular area should in fact be excluded from the site. SNH is not however permitted to use its pre-confirmation power of modification to extend the boundaries of the site or to add to the ORC list. Separate procedures exist in sections 5, 6 and 7 to allow changes to these particular components of the SSSI notification. These powers can be used before as well as after confirmation.

Referral to Advisory Committee

75.Paragraph 9 , together with section 21(6) to (8), sets out SNH’s obligations in situations where representations (including objections to the site) have been lodged in accordance with paragraph 3(c).

76.Where any valid representation has been received and it relates to the natural features specified in the notification (e.g. it is an objection concerning the appropriateness or accuracy of the information contained in an SSSI notification by virtue of section 3(4)(a)(ii) or it concerns SNH’s reasons for considering a site no longer to be of special interest) SNH cannot then confirm the notification until it has referred the representation to the Advisory Committee on SSSIs (“ACSSSI) and considered any advice received from ACSSSI.

77.The role and operations of ACSSSI are defined in section 21 (for which see paragraphs 153 to 162 of these notes ). The need to allow sufficient time for ACSSSI to consider objections, and for SNH properly, in turn, to consider ACSSSI’s advice, prior to expiry of the deadline for confirmation of the SSSI was one of the key reasons for extending the confirmation period from 9 months (under the 1981 Act) to one year (under this Act).

Notice of decision to confirm or withdraw

78.Paragraph 10 obliges SNH to give formal notice of any decision to confirm or withdraw a notification. Notice must be given to the interested parties (see section 48(2)) and must be publicised, including in at least one local newspaper and by any other means which SNH thinks fit, in accordance with the requirements of paragraph 2. A failure to give such notice within the deadline for confirmation leads, by virtue of paragraph 5, to the notification being deemed to have been withdrawn.

79.Paragraph 11 deals with the situation in which an objection to the notification has been referred to ACSSSI. In such cases the person who lodged the objection must be provided not only with notice of the confirmation or withdrawal of the notification but must also be given a copy of the advice which ACSSSI had given to SNH in relation to the matters raised by that objector.

Extension of period during which notification is to be confirmed or withdrawn

80.Paragraphs 12 and 13 provide for the extension of the period within which a notification must be formally confirmed or withdrawn. An extension may be made in the event of a referral to ACSSSI, but the extension can be for no more than an additional 6 month period. Thus the notification is required, in most situations, to be confirmed or withdrawn within no more than 18 months of the date on which it was originally given. If this does not happen it will be deemed (by virtue of paragraph 5) to have been withdrawn.

81.Where no objections have been received which are required under section 21 to be referred to ACSSSI, paragraph 13 does however allow for the period for confirmation or withdrawal to be extended for an unspecified period where this is by mutual agreement between SNH and all owners and occupiers of land within the SSSI in question. In such circumstances confirmation could take longer than 18 months. Such an agreement may, for example, be reached where SNH is engaged in constructive but very detailed negotiations with owners and occupiers and they are content with the progress of those negotiations.

82.Paragraph 14 specifies the manner in which agreement to an extension of the period for confirmation or withdrawal is to be obtained by SNH. Agreement is given either where every owner and occupier explicitly consents or where no reasonable objection is received within 28 days of SNH making a proposal for extension. The concept of reasonableness is applied here in order to prevent one individual from blocking an extension for petty reasons and thereby thwarting the wishes of the overwhelming majority of owners and occupiers of the site. A similar principle applies elsewhere in the Act, for example in relation to the review of ORC lists (see section 6(3)(b)).

83.Paragraph 15 requires SNH to inform the interested parties of any extension to the period for confirmation or withdrawal. This is particularly relevant to the situation foreseen in paragraph 14(b) where no reasonable objection is received.

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Text created by the Scottish Executive department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Acts of the Scottish Parliament except those which result from Budget Bills

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