Cross Compliance: Guide to Cross Compliance in England 2015 (GCCE 2015 v1)

GAEC 7d: Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)

(Previously GAEC 6)

You must not damage or destroy SSSIs. SSSI status is placed on land which, following a legal process, is judged to have special flora, fauna, or geological or physiographical features.

Check online if your land is in an SSSI.

If you owned or occupied the land at the time it became a SSSI, you will probably already know that it is an SSSI. If this not the case, Natural England will ordinarily have contacted you about the land’s status.

You must:

  • obtain Natural England's (NE’s) consent in writing before carrying out, causing or permitting any specified operation listed in SSSI legal documents and identified as likely to damage the special interest features of the area (unless that operation is carried out in accordance with the terms of a management agreement that provides consent for the operations)
  • comply with all management notices served by NE or any terms of any restoration order served by a court.

A management notice is different to a management agreement as it legally obliges the recipient to carry out certain activities; a restoration order requires operations for the purpose of restoring an SSSI to its former condition.

You must not:

  • intentionally or recklessly destroy or damage any of the SSSIs special interest features (flora, fauna, geological or physiological features), or disturb any fauna that are a special interest feature.

This rule can apply to actions that take place outside the SSSI itself but which have the same consequences for the SSSI.

You will not break any of these rules if you have reasonable excuse to carry out certain operations, for example:

  • you have planning permission to carry out the work
  • you have consent from a public body or statutory authority
  • it is an emergency operation (provided that Natural England is told as soon as possible after the emergency).

These rules apply to all SSSIs. Where the land is also classed as a European Site (Special Protection Area or Special Area of Conservation) and these rules are breached the non-compliance will also be considered under the relevant requirement of SMR 2 (Wild birds) or SMR 3 (Habitats and species).

More information

There is more information about SSSIs online.


Natural England: 0345 600 3078
Rural Payments Agency: 0345 603 7777
Forestry Commission: 0300 067 4000

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