Sweetman v. An Bord Pleanala, CJEU, Advocate-General Sharpston, 22 November 2012 read opinion
In May 2012 the Habitats Directive celebrated its 20th birthday. It has been under a good deal of flak over the years, particularly from business interests both in and out of government. The reason is plain. The Directive has made member states identify important sites in their territories to the EU (with a certain amount of prodding on the way). It then tells them to keep those sites unaffected by development save in exceptional cases, where there is overriding public interest in the project, there is no alternative solution and, further, that there can be full compensation for the losses caused by the development.
So a member state cannot routinely fudge things against protected habitats in favour of whatever other public interest may be uppermost at the time – wind farms, or supermarkets or chemical works or residential newbuild on greenbelt, for instance. In all but exceptional cases (see here for my post on a proposal which was said to be exceptional), you must not adversely affect the site.
Now for this powerful system of protection in practice, thanks to a tour d’horizon (and de force) by the Advocate-General.