Pond Conservation Leaflets

The Importance of Ponds

Ponds are defined as: Man-made or natural waterbodies between 1m2 and 2ha in area which hold water for 4 months of the year or more. This definition is deliberately broad and includes even very small waterbodies, which can sometimes have a high conservation value. The definition also specifically includes semi-seasonal and temporary ponds, which often dry up in summer but can support both specialised and valuable pond communities. There is no clear distinction between a large pond and a small lake.
NB. It is very important to include the habitat around the pond and to measure its size at winter water levels.

Some three-quarters (more than a million) of Britain's ponds have been lost over the last hundred years. Between 1984 and 1990, Government statistics showed that there was a 2% net loss of ponds in the countryside. The Countryside Survey 2000 now shows that losses are slowing but development is still bringing about a negative impact on ponds. Added together the remaining ponds are needed to provide:

  • a unique biodiversity resource, rich in species of plants, invertebrates and amphibians an important part of our history, culture and past agricultural practices
  • a visual focus in many landscapes
  • an amenity for many communities
  • a source of recreation and education

Despite their importance to wildlife, archaeology, culture and leisure, ponds are consistently undervalued probably because of their small size, familiarity and perceived abundance. Through a better understanding of the value of ponds, future losses can be minimised, existing ponds sensitively managed and new ones created.

This leaflet aims to guide planners and developers through the main issues for consideration when a development site includes or affects ponds, or provides opportunities for the creation of a new pond. This advice is not relevant to the majority of garden ponds.

We would welcome the adoption by Local Planning Authorities of Development Plan Policies and Supplementary Planning Guidance such as application of the principle of environmental capital, which lend support to the recommendations below.


Further loss of and damage to ponds should be avoided except in exceptional circumstances.
Any pond, which is unavoidably damaged, should be replaced by the creation or restoration of a similar water feature nearby. For every one pond that is lost it is recommended that the creation of two be sought with attention to ecological quality.
Opportunities should be taken wherever possible to create new ponds, on appropriate land. This may include development sites, farmland, school grounds and even restored waste and mineral workings and derelict land reclamation schemes. Care should be taken that this is not to the detriment of any other existing feature of interest.
Incorporate ponds into development schemes, as appropriate, either as a landscape feature or as part of a Sustainable Urban Drainage Scheme (SUDS).


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