Assessing plans and projects under the EU habitats Directive

The European Court of Justice has strengthened the provisions of the EU habitats Directive concerning the assessment of plans and projects likely to damage protected sites. It has given a liberal interpretation to the meaning of "plans and projects", applying the concept in this case to annual fishing licences, and ruling that the precautionary principle should apply in cases of scientific doubt as to likely effects. The decision confirms the line taken by the High Court in the 'ghost ships' case last year, and has considerable implications for public authorities making decisions liable to affect protected sites.

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