Sites of Special Scientific Interest - SSSIs (NE54)

Public bodies authorising operations

Public bodies must give us notice under section 28I of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) when giving others permission to carry out an operation likely to damage any of the features of interest of an SSSI. This requirement applies to operations within an SSSI, and to operations outside the SSSI which may affect the features of interest. We have 28 days to reply.

The public body must consider our advice when deciding whether or not to issue a permission and what (if any) conditions should be attached to it. If we advise that the operations will not affect the SSSI, the permission or licence may be granted without waiting for the end of the 28 days. If the public body wants to grant permission against our advice, it must let us know, giving full details of the proposed permission and a statement explaining how our advice has been taken into account. The permission must not allow the operations to begin until the end of a further 21 days. During this further 21-day period, we may refer the case to the Secretary of State to consider.

Permission may be given for work to be carried out in an emergency as long as we are told as soon as possible afterwards.

Breaking these requirements is a criminal offence which may carry a fine of up to £20,000 (unlimited in the Crown Court).

You can find more information and guidance on these requirements in Defra’s Code of Guidance 'Sites of Special Scientific Interest: Encouraging positive partnerships' available from the Defra website (

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