Sites of Special Scientific Interest - SSSIs (NE54)

Some technical terms explained

We will always try to explain ourselves in straightforward terms. We may occasionally have to use specific terms for legal or technical reasons. This information note explains the main phrases and terms we may use when we talk to you, or send you letters, about your SSSI. If you are not sure about the meaning of what we say, please ask us to explain.


Our approval under section 28H of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) of an operation which another public authority is proposing (This is different to the consent given to owners and occupiers of SSSIs).


Legal constraints we impose on a particular site to prevent operations likely to damage. We may use these when we cannot stop damaging activities in other ways.


A document explaining the special interest of an SSSI. The citation is one of the legal documents that forms part of the notification package.

Compulsory purchase

We have the ability to buy the freehold interest of a piece of land (whether you want us to or not). We will only consider this in exceptional circumstances, when buying the land is essential to maintain the special interest. We will first explore all other practical options, including voluntary purchase or management agreements.


The power to confirm, within nine months, a notification after the Natural England Board has considered representations and objections.


Our formal written authorisation for you to carry out an operation listed in the notification.


A legal power to remove statutory protection from a site we have previously confirmed as an SSSI. The procedures mirror those for notification and confirmation. There are opportunities for you to make representations which we will consider. The land will continue to be protected as an SSSI until we have confirmed that we have removed the notification.


Our duty to let the Secretary of State, all owners and occupiers and local planning authorities know about any land that we consider to be of special scientific interest (an SSSI). Notification documents include a map, citation, management statement, and a list of operations which need our consent. We can vary notifications, or change the area of SSSIs, once they are confirmed. However, we can only make these changes after a full statutory consultation with you. See also Confirmation.

Operations which need our consent

If you want to carry out operations which are listed in the notification as likely to damage the special interest, you must give us written notice. In most cases we will be able to give our consent, sometimes with conditions and time limits.

Powers of entry

People we have authorised may enter land for a number of different purposes, such as:

  • to assess whether the land should be notified as an SSSI;
  • to prepare a scheme for managing the land in a way which would conserve its special features;
  • to assess the condition of the features on the site;
  • to see whether an offence has been committed; and
  • to erect an SSSI notice or sign.

We will use these powers only after giving you at least 24 hours notice, unless an SSSI is being damaged.


We are responsible for enforcing the law protecting SSSIs. We do this in line with our SSSI enforcement policy. Prosecutions may not be taken by anyone else without the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Restoration order

The courts may make an order saying the land must be restored to its former condition where someone is found guilty of an offence of damaging an SSSI.

Section 28G authority

A public body, as defined under section 28G of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). These organisations have a duty to conserve and improve SSSIs and to consult us before carrying out or permitting operations that damage SSSIs.

Statutory undertaker

A statutory undertaker is defined under section 262(1), (3) and (6) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as people authorised to carry out any railway, light railway, tramway,road transport, water transport, canal, inland, navigation, dock, harbour, pier or lighthouse work.

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