Sites of Special Scientific Interest - SSSIs (NE54)

Enforcing the law relating to SSSIs

We are responsible for enforcing the nature conservation provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000 and the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006. This information note explains what will
happen when the law is broken. It is not a detailed guide to the law.

We aim to conserve SSSIs for the benefit of present and future generations, through positive partnerships with the people who manage and own those sites. You should make sure that your SSSI is managed in line with the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). If you own or manage an SSSI that is being damaged by other people, our local advisors will be pleased to let you know how to deal with the situation.

What response can you expect from us?

We will give a firm response so that the law protecting SSSIs is respected. We will investigate reports of damage (from whatever source) objectively and promptly. Our response will be fair and in proportion to the alleged offence.

Professional investigation officers will carry out interviews and will provide a detailed report. We will give a fair hearing to anyone suspected of an offence.

A proportionate response means that we will consider the nature of the offence. For less serious offences we may issue warning letters. For more serious offences we will consider prosecution. Any decisions to prosecute are taken by our legal advisor and Director - Regulatory Services and Access.

Working with other enforcement agencies

Some alleged offences in relation to SSSIs may be illegal under other legislation, and we may involve other enforcement agencies or the police in the investigation. We will help other authorities by providing advice and information and will make sure we use public resources efficiently.

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