Often, protected areas are located adjacent to industrial areas or other infrastructure. At the time of their designation this may not have been a problem. However, when time passes, economic and demographic development require new infrastructure to be developed. And it so happens that the best option from a mobility or economic point of view may be to build this infrastructure in a protected area. This may result in tensions or conflicts between various stakes in society, such as nature conservation versus industrial development.
In such cases all options must be considered carefully. For example, from a nature conservation perspective this requires an objective impact assessment. Which habitats or species are likely to suffer from infrastructure works? Are they rare, threatened or protected? Can possible damage be compensated nearby by restoring ecosystems or making land management more nature-friendly? How and where could this best be done? And what is legally possible?
My assignment was about such case. More specifically it concerned the intention to build or extend a road in order to reduce heavy truck traffic through nearby village centres in the municipality of Beerse (Belgium). Parts of the road trajectory would cross a Natura 2000 site, an area designated to safeguard Europe’s most precious species and habitats. I assessed the current status of the area from a nature conservation point of view, the possible impacts of a number of alternative road trajectories, and I advised in terms of possible ecological damage and compensation or restoration measures.