Key Principles of the SWMEMS Management Scheme
To help ensure that all relevant authorities are working to the same goal, a number of key principles have been established which will underlie the production of the management scheme for the SWMEMS.
Principle 1 – Feature Condition
The SWMEMS qualified for designation against the background of current use and there is a working assumption that the features for which the site is designated were in favourable condition at the time of designation. This working assumption will be re-evaluated in the light of the assessments of feature condition over the 6 year reporting cycle, as well as any other relevant information arising out of the development of the management scheme.
Principle 2 – Sustainable Development
The aim of the management scheme is not to exclude human activities from SWMEMS, but rather to ensure that they are undertaken in ways which do not threaten the nature conservation interest, and wherever possible, in ways that support it. The management scheme should ensure an integration of social, economic and environmental objectives when considering the management of activities within the designated area.
Principle 3 – Regulatory Use of Bye-laws
New bye-laws may be used as a regulatory mechanism for the SWMEMS. These should only be introduced into the management scheme when all other options have been considered and it is the only effective solution.
Principle 4 – Links to Existing Management and Other Plans/Initiatives
Where appropriate the SWMEMS management scheme will directly utilise management actions from other existing management plans. The actions identified in the management scheme will therefore serve to inform and support existing management effects rather than duplicate them. Where appropriate the management measures identified in other plans will remain the mechanism through which these are to be implemented.
Principle 5 – Onus of Proof
If through their own site condition monitoring programme or that of another Relevant Authority, English Nature can demonstrate that they have reasonable cause to suspect that a deterioration in the condition of a SWMEMS feature may be occurring, or that there is a foreseeable risk of deterioration occurring in the future, then English Nature and the Relevant Authorities concerned will work together to identify any cause and effect relationship.
Principle 6 – Management Actions
Where reasonable evidence is found to clearly demonstrate the cause and effect relationship the Relevant Authorities involved will instigate changes to the management of the activity, which will be within a Relevant Authorities statutory obligations and will provide a solution that is in accordance with the Regulations and be fair, balanced, proportionate and appropriate to the site and the activity. Where the cause and effect relationship is uncertain but deterioration in the condition is still potentially significant the Relevant Authorities should consider any possible changes in management practices in light of the precautionary principle and the cost effectiveness of proposed measures in preventing damage. However, the precautionary principle should not be used to prevent existing management actions continuing where there is no evidence of real risk of deterioration or significant disturbance to site features.
If a damaging activity is identified a management action will be formulated to prevent further damage and where reasonable or practical reverse damage already carried out. Within their existing powers relevant authorities are statutorily required to act in accordance with the final management scheme actions. This may mean taking action within their powers to prevent deterioration of the site occurring. English Nature will use the precautionary principle to help determine whether a change in management is required. However, when damage to the site is both potentially significant and uncertain, it will be appropriate to act on the basis of the precautionary principle .
All forms of environmental risk should be tested against the precautionary principle which means that where there are real risks to the site, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures that are likely to be cost effective in preventing such damage. It does not however imply that the suggested cause of such damage must be eradicated unless proved to be harmless and it cannot be used as a licence to invent hypothetical consequences. Moreover, it is important, when considering whether the information available is sufficient, to take account of the associated balance of likely costs, including environmental costs and benefits
(DETR & the Welsh Office 1998)
English Nature is responsible for reporting to Europe on the condition of the SWMEMS. The condition monitoring programme is based on a six year reporting period of feature assessment.
Some of the attributes which will be monitored include:
The area of reef;
Water temperature and salinity;
The extent and distribution of kelp communities;
The range and distribution of sea cave biotopes.
The favourable condition table (table 1) in the Regulation 33 advice sets out a full list of the attributes of the SWMEMS which will be monitored in more detail.
Where change is detected, it is important to distinguish between natural and unnatural change. If and when a change is occurring as a result of human activities, the managing authorities are obliged to introduce some form of management to reduce the impact on the designated habitats.