The Habitats Directive as an instrument to achieve sustainability? An analysis through the case of the Rotterdam Mainport Development Project

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Series Details Vol.16, No.3, May-June 2006, p127-138
Publication Date May 2006
ISSN 0961-0405
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The Habitats Directive is a key document for the protection of critical natural capital in the European Union. In a manner consistent with the understanding of sustainability in the European Commission, even critical natural capital is subject to trade-offs in favour of economic and social development. This is reflected in Articles 6(3) and 6(4) of the directive. This paper analyses the planning process leading to the approval of the expansion of the port of Rotterdam project - which will significantly affect Natura 2000 - against sustainability criteria. Although it shows that the directive is powerful to promote sustainable planning, the success of the case study was due mainly to elements specific to the particular planning process, namely the use of deliberative public participation mechanisms as well as specific assessment tools. Lessons are drawn and recommendations made to strengthen the Habitats Directive and the national planning processes in relation to projects potentially affecting Natura 2000 sites.

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