Sites of Special Scientific Interest - SSSIs (NE54)

Types of offence

Owners and occupiers
  • Carrying out potentially damaging operations without consent.
  • Failing to keep to a management notice.
  • Failing to let us know about a change in ownership or occupation.
Public bodies
  • Carrying out damaging operations without meeting the requirements to notify us.
  • Failing to minimise any damage to an SSSI and if there is any damage, failing to restore it to its former state so far as is reasonably practical and possible.
  • Authorising damaging operations without meeting the requirements to notify us.
Any person
  • Intentionally or recklessly damaging or destroying any of the features of special interest of an SSSI, or disturbing wildlife for which the site was notified.
  • Intentionally obstructing a person exercising Natural England's powers of entry.
  • Intentionally or recklessly taking down, damaging or obscuring an SSSI notice or sign.
Emergencies and operations allowed by other public bodies

The law allows operations listed in the notification documents to be carried out in emergencies, as long as we are told as soon as possible after the works are carried out or permission was given. Operations that are authorised or licensed by another public body may also be carried out without needing separate permission from us. If you are in any doubt, contact your local office for advice.


Those convicted of carrying out work without permission, or of damaging an SSSI, may be fined up to £20,000 by a Magistrates Court or an unlimited amount by a Crown Court. The courts can also order the site to be restored at the expense of the offender.

The penalty for not keeping to a management notice is £5,000 in the Magistrates Court or an unlimited amount in the Crown Court. Obstructing one of our officers or failing to let us know about a change in ownership or occupancy of an SSSI can mean a fine of up to £200. Removing or damaging an SSSI sign or notice can result in a fine of up to £2,500.

You should refer to the relevant legislation directly, and if necessary, get legal advice. You can find details of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the CROW Act and the NERC Act on the Office of Public Sector Information website (

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