Special Environmental Sites and Schemes

7. Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

SSSIs are designated as the best examples of wildlife habitats, geological features and landforms. The SSSI designation applies throughout Great Britain and in England notification of site designation is carried out by English Nature. Sites are chosen to be representative of British habitats with each site seen as an integral part of the national set. The aim being to maintain the present diversity of animals and plants. For biological sites designation is based on an established set of criteria which include naturalness, diversity, typicalness, size, fragility and rarity.

There are about five and a half thousand SSSIs ranging in size from 10,000 ha to 1 ha. In total they cover approximately 1.6 million hectares or about 7% of the land area of the United Kingdom. Following designation English Nature tries to work in partnership with land owners to conserve and enhance the nature conservation interest of their SSSI. This is done through a combination of meetings, routine site visits and management plans.

Land owners and occupiers must give English Nature four months notice if they intend to carry out operations that are likely to cause damage to the site. Failure to do so may lead to a fine of up to 1000.

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