Designated sites for nature conservation

Designated Sites for Nature Conservation

The types of designated sites for nature conservation that can be found in the UK and Ireland are given the table below.

Table 6: Designated Sites

Site Type International Protection National Protection Protection Type Description
Ramsar Sites
(All)
Ramsar Convention In E & W, have the same protection as SPAs and SACs by policy. Statutory Wetlands of international importance supporting wildfowl and other important species.
Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
(All)
Birds Directive Regulations derived from the Habitats Directive Statutory Sites that support rare, vulnerable or large numbers of regularly occurring migratory bird species. SPAs are part of a network
of European sites known as Natura 2000.
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
(All)
Habitats Directive Regulations derived from the Habitats Directive Statutory High-quality conservation sites which make a significant contribution to conserving habitats and species threatened in Europe
as a whole. Part of the Natura 2000 Network.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
(E, W & S)
None, unless also designated Ramsar, SPA or SAC Wildlife & Countryside Act and CRoW Act Statutory Representative samples of British habitats forming a national series aimed at maintaining the present diversity of wild plants
and animals in Great Britain.
Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs)
(NI)
As above The Environment (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 Statutory Areas of land that have been assessed as having the highest conservation value in Northern Ireland.
Natural Heritage Areas
(I)
As above Wildlife Amendment Act (2000) Statutory Areas of land which are considered important for the habitats present or which hold species of plants and animals whose habitat
needs protection.
National Nature Reserves (NNRs)
(E, W & S)
None National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949; Wildlife & Countryside Act and CRoW Act Statutory Areas managed for study or research into flora, fauna, geological or physiographical interest, or for preserving features of
special interest. Owned or leased by Natural England, bodies approved by them, or managed under agreement with landowners/occupiers.
Statutory Nature Reserves (Nature Reserves (NR) & National Nature Reserves (NNR))
(NI)
None The Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 Statutory Two tiers of nature reserve; NNRs are the top tier, representing sites of national importance, and NRs, which are of lesser
importance but are primarily managed for nature conservation.
Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) (E, W, S) None National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act 1949; local planning documents and policies Statutory Concentrated in or around urban areas where a policy of using LNRs to promote conservation education has been pioneered. LNRs
have local as opposed to national importance for nature conservation and the local authority must consult with the relevant
SNCO before designation.
Local Nature Reserves (LNRs) (NI) None The Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985; Local planning documents and policies Statutory An area of land, designated by a district council, for the purposes of nature conservation or the study of wildlife or both.
Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) (E & W) None Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 Statutory Designated to protect areas of national importance for biodiversity within the marine environment.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
(S)
None Marine Scotland Act 2009 Statutory As MCZs in England and Wales
Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs)
(NI)
None Marine Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 Statutory As MCZs in England and Wales
County Wildlife Sites and other local designations
(E, W, S & NI)
None Local planning documents and policies Non-Statutory Sites designated by Local Planning Authorities. They can be of significant value for nature conservation, especially in urban
areas, although they do not have the legal protection afforded by statutory designations described previously. The term
‘Local Sites’ is now most commonly used for such sites.
Proposed Natural Heritage Areas (pNHA)
(I)
None Local planning documents and policies Non-Statutory As above but sites which were proposed as NHAs following a review in 1995. However, these sites have not yet received formal
statutory designation or protection.

E = England, W = Wales, S = Scotland, NI = Northern Ireland, I = Republic of Ireland