Aster Environmental Consultants

Aster Environmental Consultants

Aster Environmental Consultants Ltd. was formed in 2001 by Marie Louise Heffernan (CEnv, MIEEM) in response to an increasing demand for ecological and other environmental services in the West of Ireland.

The company offers services to public, private and community interests and our main catchment area is Galway and Mayo, though we have completed projects in nearly every county in Ireland from Donegal to Waterford.

We specialise in Appropriate Assessment of projects within, or close to, areas designated for the protection of nature. These areas are known as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA).

Aster have a good reputation with local authorities and government bodies as well as ecological and environmental bodies. Clients include Local Authorities, Department of the Environment, Third Level Institutes, energy companies, engineers and property development companies.


Ecological Services

Dive into our Biodiversity Enhancement Plans, meticulously crafted to unveil the intricacies of each environment. Our process involves in-depth site analysis, identifying not only key species but also the intricate relationships within ecosystems. Through advanced ecological assessments, we go beyond surface-level understanding, uncovering unique characteristics that guide our strategies. Our plans are comprehensive roadmaps, integrating habitat restoration, species conservation, and sustainable management practices, ensuring a holistic approach to enriching and revitalizing biodiversity in a targeted area.

Our Conservation Planning services are a synergy of human development and environmental preservation. Collaborating with clients, communities, and regulatory bodies, we meticulously navigate the delicate balance between progress and conservation. Our approach involves detailed impact assessments, stakeholder consultations, and strategic planning to integrate infrastructure development seamlessly with the preservation of natural habitats. We prioritize sustainable solutions, ensuring that our conservation plans not only meet project goals but also contribute to the long-term health and resilience of the ecosystems involved.


Natura 2000 Sites
With the introduction of the Birds Directive in 1979 and the Habitats Directive in 1992 came the obligation to establish the Natura 2000 network of sites of highest biodiversity importance for rare and threatened habitats and species across the EU. In Ireland, the Natura 2000 network of European sites comprises Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas.

What is Appropriate Assessment?
Appropriate Assessment involves a case-by-case examination of the implications of a development for the Natura 2000 site and its conservation objectives. This may be presented in the form of a Natura Impact Statement.

In general terms, implicit in Article 6(3) is an obligation to put concern for potential effects on Natura 2000 sites at the forefront of every decision made in relation to plans and projects at all stages.

Screening for Appropriate Assessment
The question is asked whether the development is considered to have a significant impact on the designated Natura 2000 site. Its purpose is to determine, on the basis of a preliminary assessment and objective criteria, whether a plan or project, alone and in combination with other plans or projects, could have significant effects on a Natura 2000 site in view of the site’s conservation objectives. If the answer is no then the process is complete.

Appropriate Assessment
A full Appropriate Assessment is required if the project is considered to potentially have a significant impact on the designated Natura 2000 site. Where significant effects are likely, uncertain or unknown at screening stage, Appropriate Assessment will be required. Appropriate Assessment is a focused and detailed impact assessment of the implications of the plan or project, alone and in combination with other plans and projects, on the integrity of a Natura 2000 site in view of its conservation objectives.

If it can be concluded on the basis of Appropriate Assessment that there will be no adverse effects on the integrity of a Natura 2000 site, the plan or project can proceed to authorisation, where the normal planning or other requirements will apply in reaching a decision to approve or refuse.

If adverse effects are likely then alternative ways of proceeding with the project may be evaluated and rescreened for Appropriate assessment. In many cases the project can be redesigned, or mitigating measures proposed, to minimise the impact.

Aster has been working on AA since 2009 dating from the first guidelines and has prepared hundreds of AA screenings and NIS documents for a range of projects including housing, bridges, conservation fencing, quarries, solar wind and battery storage facilities.


Aster offers unparalleled services in legal cases with a focus on marine expertise and ornithology. Backed by 30 years of dedicated practice, we excels in providing testimony and insights rooted in extensive experience with the Habitats Directive. Our experts are adept at navigating complex environmental legal matters, offering a unique blend of theoretical knowledge and practical understanding. Whether it’s marine ecosystems or ornithological considerations, Aster is your can deliver credible, informed, and authoritative expertise to bolster your legal case.

Why choose Aster Environmental Consultants?

Immerse yourself in the wealth of knowledge our director a Chartered Environmentalist with over 30 years of experience specialising in the intricacies of Ireland's diverse ecosystems. A professional approach bringing unparalleled expertise, navigating the complexities of biodiversity, ecology, and conservation principles with a deep understanding of Ireland's unique environmental challenges.

Rooted in sustainability, our approach transcends traditional environmental consulting. We go beyond mitigating impact, striving to create solutions that foster long-term environmental health and benefit our clients. Aster is dedicated to crafting sustainable strategies that harmonize with the natural world, promoting a balance between human development and ecological preservation.

Collaboration is the cornerstone of our ethos. We believe in the power of working together—building strong partnerships with clients, communities, and stakeholders. Through open communication and inclusive decision-making processes, Aster fosters collaborative efforts that lead to shared conservation goals. Join us in making a positive impact on Ireland's environment through cooperative and synergistic initiatives.


Mornington Dunes Visitor Access and Conservation Management Plan
by Aster Environmental Consultants
November 2023
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Irish Wildlife Manuals No. 136: The Status of Breeding Common Scoter in Ireland, 2020
by Marie Louise Heffernan and Jackie Hunt
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A survey of breeding gulls and terns on Lough Corrib, Co.’s Galway and Mayo
by Jackie Hunt and Marie Louise Heffernan
November, 2007
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Mink trapping at Lough Mask 2007 to protect breeding gulls
by Jackie Hunt and Marie Louise Heffernan
November, 2007
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A survey of the Lough Mask breeding gull population
by Jackie Hunt and Marie Louise Heffernan
November, 2006
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Irish Wildlife Manuals No. 7: A review of the ecological implications of mariculture and intertidal harvesting in Ireland
by Marie Louise Heffernan
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Easy Guide to Garden Birds of Britain & Ireland
by Marie Louise Heffernan
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Invasive Species Leaflet No.1 - Rhododendron ponticum
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Aster Environmental Consultants Ltd, The Ecology Centre, Letterfrack, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland

Tel: +353 (0)86 8278031   Email: