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Protected Sites and the NPWS


The NPWS (National Parks and Wildlife Service) is the agency which designates and advises on the classification of sites as protected areas in Ireland.

For a number of reasons industrial activities need to confirm whether or not they are on or near protected sites. These have been referred to in other Environet news items and include implications for;

-          Environmental Liabilities Directive

-          IPPC & Waste Licensing

-          Environmental Liabilities Risk Assessments

-          Natura Impact Statements

Ireland has 3 main classes of protected sites. These sites are not mutually exclusive.

-          NHAs (National Heritage Areas) & pNHAs (proposed National Heritage Areas)

-          SACs (Special Areas of Conservation)

-          SPAs (Special Protection Areas)


NHAs & pNHAs

148 raised and blanket bogs have to date been designated as NHAs. A further 630 sites have been listed as proposed NHAs. These were listed in 1995 on a non-statutory basis. These include woodlands, lakes and roosting places for bats. For the purposes of assessing impact NHAs and pNHAs are generally given the same status.



Special Areas of Conservation are selected and designated under the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC). There are approximately 400 designated SACs in Ireland covering an area of approximately 13,500 km2.



Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive protect birds at their breeding, feeding, roosting and wintering areas. There are 121 designated SPAs in Ireland with a further 25 expected to be designated shortly.

If you need to find out more the NPWS has an excellent mapping service which can be accessed here