Ponds, Pools and Lochans

2.7 Legislation and policy initiatives relating to ponds

Four main areas of legislation and associated policy provide or encourage protection for ponds and small water bodies in Scotland. These are described in the following section under the headings of natural heritage conservation, land-use planning, water pollution control and agri-environment schemes, although there is inevitably some overlap between these. Environmental protection in Scotland is overseen by SEERAD, the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department which is responsible for advising Ministers on United Kingdom and European Union policy relating to agriculture, environmental issues and fisheries, and for the implementation of those policies in Scotland.

Contact points for each of the organisations mentioned in this section are given in Appendix 1.

Natural heritage conservation legislation

Designation of SSSIs and NNRs. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is the Agency responsible for advising central and local government on all aspects of Scotlands natural heritage. In fulfilling these responsibilities SNH has a duty to notify as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) any area of land which in its opinion is of special interest by reason of its flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features. Areas of land of national importance for nature conservation may be designated as National Nature Reserves (NNRs).

Many SSSIs and NNRs protect a range of high quality ponds, although sites are only rarely designated specifically for their ponds. Ponds on sites designated as SSSIs may qualify for a range of financial and technical assistance from SNH and others.

UK Biodiversity Action Plan. At the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 the UK signed the Biodiversity Convention which requires that the components of the Earths biological diversity should be used in ways which do not lead to their decline. The commitments contained in the convention are reflected in UK and Scottish programmes for sustainable development, and in the responsibilities of the statutory agencies.

Practical measures to safeguard biodiversity are described in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), and a number of these measures are important for the protection of small waterbodies (UK Biodiversity Steering Group, 1994).

In Scotland, the Scottish Biodiversity Group is taking forward the programme of work identified in the UK BAP in a partnership of statutory agencies, local authorities, non governmental organisations and local communities. The UK BAP is primarily implemented through the identification of species and habitats at risk, for which agreed conservation measures are published in speciesand habitat-specific action plans.

Ponds supporting Biodiversity Action Plan species (known as BAP species) are likely to be a priority for action for a number of organisations. BAP species associated with ponds in Scotland are listed in Table 5. Further information about BAP species (including contact points) is available in individual Species Action Plans, which are accessible through the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) website (www.jncc.gov.uk). Local Biodiversity Action Plans (LBAPs) are also targeting ponds (or standing waters) as priorities for action in some areas (e.g. North Lanarkshire).

At present a relatively small number of LBAPs have been published in Scotland but as the remainder are produced it is likely that a number will focus local action from a wide range of organisations on pond habitats. Further information on LBAPs can be obtained from the Biodiversity Secretariat of SEERAD, or from the Scottish Biodiversity Group website: www.scotland.gov.uk/biodiversity.

Some ponds in Scotland may also fall within the scope of the Habitat Action Plans (HAPs) for eutrophic standing waters and mesotrophic lakes. The eutrophic waters plan covers natural and man-made waters including lakes, reservoirs and gravel pits but excludes field ponds, small pools and brackish waters. However, some water bodies covered by the definition used in the current report (see Section 2.1) may still fall within the eutrophic waters definition as no lower size limit is specified.

The mesotrophic lakes HAP includes water bodies down to 1 ha in area. Consequently, there are likely to be a number of small water bodies in Scotland which fulfill both this size criterion and the mesotrophic lake biological and chemical criteria (total phosphorus concentrations in the range 10-35 microgram phosphorus/litre).

An Interim Report on the conservation of mesotrophic lakes is available from SEPA offices (UK Steering Group for Mesotrophic Lakes, 1999). HAPs for mesotrophic and eutrophic lakes can also be accessed through the JNCC website.

Ponds_fig10.jpg (31600 bytes)

Figure 10. An unnamed lochan on Rannoch Moor National Nature Reserve, one of the National Pond Survey sites in Scotland. Pond Action


Planning legislation and policies

NPPG 14 (National Policy Planning Guidance 14: Natural Heritage) provides a statement of Government policy on nationally important land use and other planning matters of relevance to Scotland. Implementation of these policies is the responsibility of local planning authorities and other statutory bodies.

NPPG 14 notes that, as part of the wider heritage (i.e. land outside designated sites) lochs, ponds, watercourses and wetlands are often both valuable features and important wildlife habitats which planning authorities should seek to safeguard with in the context of a wider framework of water catchment management. Local authorities may also designate Local Nature Reserves because of high natural heritage interests or particular value for education and enjoyment.

In order to achieve these objectives, Structure Plans and Local Plans should include a range of policies to protect features outside of the designated network (i.e. SSSIs, NNRs etc.). These are likely to be of particular importance for pond and small water body conservation (see Table 6).

Table 6.
Policies which should be included in Structure Plans and Local Plans which are likely to be of particular importance for pond and small waterbody conservation
Structure Plans should:

  • provide for the conservation of biodiversity and the protection and enhancement of the natural heritage  outwith designed areas.
  • include policies for the protection and. where appropriate, enhancement of any sites identified as being of regional importance for nature conservation.
  • identify appropriate strategic opportunities for promoting enjoyment and understanding of the natural heritage.

Local Plans should:

  • identify all international, national, regional and local heritage designations on the Proposals map (distinguishing between international or national sites and sites of more local importance).
  • include policies for any areas identified as being of regional or local importance for the natural heritage and safeguard any landscape features of major importance for nature conservation or amenity.
  • identify opportunities to maintain and enhance wetlands
  • provide for the conservation of biodiversity and the protection of the natural heritage outwith designated areas.
  • identify appropriate opportunities to improve public access for the purposes of enjoying and learning about the natural heritage.

To fulfill legislative requirements a number of local authorities in Scotland have developed planning policies which offer specific protection to ponds or other smallscale wetland features. For example, Glasgow City Council has consolidated its existing wildlife and nature conservation policies by proposing the following draft policy ENV/G3 which will increase the protection for Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation:


There will be a presumption against any development or change of use likely to have an adverse effect on any land or water identified now, or as a result of further survey work, as being a Site of City-wide Importance for Nature Conservation (SCINC), including the level or quality of water supply within the catchment area of wetland sites.

In order to conserve an integrated system of wildlife habitats, the Council will take into account the nature of the conservation value of Sites of Local Importance for Nature Conservation (SLINCs) when assessing proposals that might adversely affect them.

To assist planning authorities to protect ponds, specimen policies have been prepared by the Pond Conservation Group which can be adapted to suit local conditions (see Table 7). See also Box 9 on Ponds and the Law.

Table 7.
Specimen planning policies for pond conservation. In 1995, the Pond Conservation Group published a set of specimen planning policies for pond conservation. Examples of these policies are given.
P1. The council will promote the conservation of ponds and wetlands, especially where they contain scheduled species, rare species or support a rich assemblage of plants, invertebrates or amphibians.
P2. The council will protect archaeological features from any work which results in the demolition, or destruction, or any damage to historic sites, including dew and decoy ponds, fishponds, moats or curling ponds, which are of historic value.
P3. In areas where there has been significant loss of ponds, the council will encourage the recreation of ponds and, as far as is within its power, require that new ponds and wetlands are designed to be sympathetic with the landscape and to provide rich and varied wildlife habitats.
P4. The council will not normally permit development which would lead to the loss or significant alteration of important habitats such as heathland, woodland, unimproved grassland, wetlands, streams or ponds, especially those which support legally protected or rare species or a rich assemblage of invertebrates, plants or amphibians.
P5. The council will not normally grant planning permission for development which would adversely affect the landscape, historical or wildlife value of any existing pond or watercourse.
Pollution control legislation

SEPAs overall aim is to provide an efficient and integrated environmental protection system for Scotland, working with others to both protect and improve the environment and contribute to the Governments goal of sustainable development. SEPA is also committed to the strategic objective of conserving, and where possible, enhancing biological diversity within the UK.

More specifically, SEPA has a statutory duty to control discharges to controlled waters, which include:

"....inland freshwaters, that is to say, the waters of any relevant loch or pond or of so much of any relevant river or watercourse as is above the freshwater limit...."

(Section 30A, Control of Pollution Act 1989 (as amended))

where "relevant loch or pond" means:

"....any loch or pond which (whether it is natural or artificial or above or below the ground) discharges into a relevant river or watercourse or into another loch or pond which is itself a relevant loch or pond...."

(Section 30A, Control of Pollution Act 1989 (as amended))

As groundwaters are also controlled waters, many other small waterbodies in direct contact with groundwater (but without a surface inflow or outflow) may be regarded as controlled waters.

SEPA also has statutory duties to promote, as far as it considers desirable, (a) the conservation and enhancement of the natural beauty and amenity of land and coastal waters and the land associated with such waters (b) the conservation of flora and fauna which are dependent on the aquatic environment (Section 34.2 Environment Act (1995)).

In the future, the implementation of the proposed Water Framework Directive will also have an important role to play in maintaining and enhancing wetland habitats both in designated areas and more generally.

Agri-environment schemes

EC Council Regulation 2078/92, the agri-environment regulation makes available Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds to encourage environmentally sensitive farming practices. Agri-environment schemes are administered by SEERAD (Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department). Agri-environment schemes have the potential to be of considerable benefit for pond conservation particularly where these schemes can:

  • support the conversion of whole pond catchments to a semi-natural land use (e.g. extensively managed grassland).
  • establish buffer zones around ponds where catchments are managed intensively (i.e. with heavy applications of fertilisers or use of biocides).
  • give priority to pond creation over potentially damaging management (normally termed restoration) which is not inevitably beneficial to wildlife or the protection of archaeological features.

Grants and advice are available within agri-environment schemes to encourage the protection and creation of ponds. Advice to landowners on pond conservation issues is available from the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) and other independent advisors.

A new agri-environment programme, the Rural Stewardship Scheme (RSS), is to be the single successor to the Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) Scheme and the Countryside Premium Scheme (CPS). This new scheme will include local and national biodiversity habitats and species, which may encourage both pond creation and management in certain areas. Further information is available from the Scottish Executive Rural Affairs Department (SERAD) local offices or the SEERAD agri-environment branch in Edinburgh.

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