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Development of the Original SEMS Management Scheme (MS)

The SEMS MS was first produced in 2004 and was written to ensure that the Relevant Authorities (RAs) comply with the requirements of the Habitats Regulations. This resulted in the establishment of a framework for the effective management of the SEMS so that the conservation objectives are met. The scheme recognised that there was no evidence submitted to suggest that any activities were causing damage or deterioration to the site.  It was produced by the Management Group (MG) of RAs in consultation with the Strategic Stakeholder Group (SSG).

Key Principles of the Management Scheme

To help ensure that all Relevant Authorities are working to the same goal, a number of key principles were established which underlie the production of the Management Scheme for the SEMS.

Principle 1 - Favourable Condition

The SEMS has qualified for designation against the background of current use and there is a working assumption that the features for which the site is designated are in favourable condition from the time of designation. The Management Scheme and the monitoring to be carried out by 2006 will test this assumption.

Principle 2 - Sustainable Development

The aim of the Management Scheme is not to exclude human activities from SEMS, 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 a balance of social, economic and environmental objectives when considering the management of activities within the Solent.

Principle 3 - Regulatory Use of Bye-laws

New bye-laws may be used as a regulatory mechanism for the SEMS. 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/Initiative

Where appropriate the SEMS 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. The management measures identified in other plans will remain the mechanism through which these are to be implemented. 

Principle 5 - Onus of Proof

The wording for principle 5 is based on the following three-stage process:

Consideration of this process had lead to the following definition of 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 evidence to indicate that a deterioration in the condition of a SEMS feature or species exists, 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 RAs 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 significant the Relevant Authorities should consider any potential 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.

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 information available is sufficient, to take account of the associated balance of likely costs, including environmental costs, and benefits." (DETR & the Welsh Office, 1998).